The Arc’s COVID-19 Updates | June 3, 2020: Addressing Local and National Barriers

Despite the Memorial Day Holiday, the past week was a busy one at The Arc. But this week’s update starts with discussion of the homicide of George Floyd, which reminded us of our country’s barriers.

The Arc’s CEO Peter Berns writes, “Tragically, the historical and everyday reality is that the lives and humanity of people of color, and members of other marginalized communities, are too often not valued and respected. The Arc renews its own commitment to social justice and the dismantling of the systems of oppression and discrimination that further this violence and neglect. We all must step up and speak out, including our nation’s leaders, to uphold the rights of communities of color to be free from over policing, police brutality, misconduct, harassment, and racism. To be silent is to be complicit.”

The COVID-19 pandemic initially challenged officials to do whatever possible to head off wide-scale spread of the virus. As the health scare subsides, we face re-opening of our cities and towns while the state grapples with a major revenue gap. We need funding to remain stable in our service system for at least another quarter as the state re-opens and planning regarding the future begins

The Arc continues to be concerned not only with health care education, but equity in access to PPE, testing, and other resources that will allow our constituents to be safe. We also need to dig deeper for resources which persons with disabilities can access on infection control as we re-open. The work ahead is challenging but must be embraced by all of us.

During the past week at The Arc:

  • We pulled together a draft visitation policy from family focus groups, which is being vetted. We hope to encourage DDS and agencies to move ahead. Thank you to Charles River Center for sharing its new temporary policy, and other chapters and agencies such as Amego which provided socially distanced visits over the past weekend.
  • We had advocated for the release of data on the virus in our communities, and EOHHS last Thursday released a dashboard which you can visit here to see facility and congregate care data. 75 people have died in community homes or related community living settings. In addition to the Commonwealth, the Disability Law Center is analyzing reports of those who passed away. We hope we can learn from this experience to be better prepared in the future. We appreciate the direct support staff and leadership who worked tirelessly through this crisis. Thank you!
  • We continue to meet weekly with the DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder and leadership ,and stay in touch with the Children and Families Committee along with key legislative leaders. This past week, we met with Rep. Denise Garlick and Rep. Christine Barber. Maura Sullivan followed up on the “Accessory Apartment” bill and MetFern bill.There also was outreach on two health care bills since they are relevant to the present crisis.
This week, a few things worth thinking about stand out:
  1. There is real pain, not just inconvenience, in the separation that families and individuals feel through this epidemic. For many, it was the first Mother’s Day that they hadn’t been together.
  2. Our concern about the post COVID-19 trauma continues. This is reinforced by a post at EdSurge, which states: “Moreover, disasters can lead to long-term mental health challenges. After Hurricane Katrina, nearly half of the parents surveyed reported an increase in their child’s emotional or behavioral difficulties. As the intensity of exposure to the hurricane increased, PTSD symptoms worsened. Three years later, researchers found 28 percent still exhibited chronic dysfunction, with greater impact among those with prior instability and lower family or community support during and after the event.” Our community is vulnerable. We need staff and families to process their COVID-19 experience so the concerns of who they support can be heard.
  3. Our community, and our country, need adequate supplies of protective personal equipment (PPE). Homes or sites which have had PPE and use PPE correctly report less intensive experiences with the virus. All of us need to advocate with The Arc to ensure adequate PPE and testing on demand. We also need to teach our constituents about how to avoid the virus themselves as they re-enter the broader community.
As we all re-enter our communities, our work of keeping people safe and maintaining a viable service system continues.

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