The Arc’s COVID-19 Updates | April 27, 2020: Supporting Our Communities

We all hope that Massachusetts COVID-19 illness statistics will start to drop over the next few weeks. It is difficult to imagine what others are going through as we face our own sense of loss over these weeks. But what makes us human is appreciating that for others the experience may be more than they can handle.

Today’s topics are about active interpersonal support, pushing for HCBS (our community supports) at the federal level, and new postings at the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). Let’s get through this together.

  1. Active Interpersonal Support
  2. The Push for HCBS at the Federal Level
  3. New Postings at the Department of Developmental Services

Active Interpersonal Support
For weeks, both internally and with colleagues at the Department of Developmental Disabilities, we have talked about proactively addressing the isolation and exclusion that is heightened for persons with disabilities (our constituents especially) and older Americans.

Colleagues Jim Ross and Phoebe Goodman shared some articles that reflect the impact and why we need to help caregivers address the sense of isolation while focusing on COVID-19 prevention. By tackling this need, we also decrease the potential spread of the virus through unrewarding behaviors.

  • “Weeks into France’s strict coronavirus lockdown, Mohammed, a 14-year-old with autism, took a pickax and started hitting the wall of his family’s house. His explanation: ‘Too long at home, too hard to wait,’ The disruptions in daily life caused by the virus pandemic are a particularly trying ordeal for children with disabilities and the people who love and are caring for them confined at home while special-needs schools and support programs remain closed.” (US News: “Virus Lockdowns an Extra Ordeal for Special-Needs Children”)

This frustration and its effects aren’t just happening with youth, but also with adults in group settings or with their parents, siblings, or spouses at home.

  • “My brother and many others with intellectual disabilities face the additional burden of increased loneliness during COVID-19. While many people are experiencing isolation, anxiety and loneliness during this challenging time, we know that prior to COVID-19, 45% of people with intellectual disabilities reported feeling lonely (that’s compared to only 10.5% of the general population). The increased pressures living in quarantine can result in challenges to mental health, sleep disruptions and mood swings.” (World Economic Forum: “‘I hope he doesn’t feel too lonely’ – COVID-19 hits people with intellectual disabilities hard”)

As we continue to go through the isolation caused by the virus, let’s take advantage of activities that are being shared by our group and others. You can see tools that build skills and encourage social connections here.

The Push for HCBS at the Federal Level
The Arc continues to advocate strongly for HCBS (Home and Community-Based Services) funds and now Casey-Dingell legislation is one pathway to this needed assistance. These funds underwrite nearly all of DDS community supports. Part of the package request is to provide an additional 15% for HCBS. The Arc’s Peter Berns stated, “it is crucial that Congress creates grants for states to expand home and community-based services (HCBS) to help keep people with I/DD in their homes and communities.”

Our federal advocacy includes support to states to manage this crisis. One of the key vehicles for our constituents is increased federal funding through the Medicaid federal-state partnership which exists today. It’s something we have had to fight to continue over the past several years. But states will need all the help they can get to fight this crisis despite Sen. Mitch McConnell’s offhand comment to let states and municipalities go bankrupt.

A Moody’s Analytics observer commented recently, “Even the states that are really well-prepared are going to be overwhelmed by the sheer size of this thing. It’s not like anything we’ve seen before and it’s not something we’re likely to forget anytime soon.” A short article excerpt from Governing on this issue will be posted soon in headlines on our home page.

New Postings at the Department of Developmental Services
New information and posts are now available on the DDS site. In addition to helpful guidance, you can view other resources including activities here.

MassHealth announced its guidance to day providers last week. You can learn about day habilitation here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *