It’s been a few days since our last update. Much has happened. As you read the short bullets below, know that on our recently launched COVID-19 Updates Center we’ll be posting links or certain files for you to dig deeper. To all families, individuals with disabilities living independently, our chapters, and fellow helping agencies, public and private across the state: hang in there.
- Thank You
- New Happenings
- What We Need and Will Need
- What You Can Do
We are in a health crisis, and as hard as our state decision makers and planners work, it’s difficult to work fast enough to keep up. We do need more help and certainty, however, to get ahead of this crisis for people with disabilities.
Thank you to the MANY agencies that are going the extra mile in service delivery. I’ve heard from several agencies, but for three examples, I’ll report on what The Arc of Plymouth and Upper Cape, The Arc of South Norfolk/Lifeworks, and Riverside Community Care have been doing.
- Surveying families to respond to their specific needs and checking in with them
- Delivering groceries and medications
- Keeping their residential supports going with staff – 24/7 or apartment programs
- Some agencies still support individuals with disabilities in essential employment
- Redeploying day habilitation and DDS day staff to keep connected and in homes
- Family support center hosting a virtual “dance party”
- Deploying admin staff to deliver supplies and packages to community residences
- The Arc joined SPAN and Federation with Children with Special Needs in a letter to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) requesting that special education services based on the Massachusetts standard be provided during this crisis. You can read that here.
- Governor Baker sent out an order on Wednesday, March 25 closing remaining day program settings and extended school closures into May.
- Department of Developmental Services (DDS):
- “Group home and facility-based residential services are essential and the staff who support your family members in those settings are performing essential work.”
- DDS formalized no visitation policy for staffed home settings with some exceptions.
- You can read more from the DDS recent update here.
- More flexibility is being allowed for Personal Care Attendant services. For adults who were served in Adult Day Health or Day Habilitation, additional hours up to a maximum of 6 hours a day will be approved. For students out of school, vacation hours are triggered. If you need more hours approved, approvals are only case by case, so we recommend you begin early and not wait until the situation is urgent.
- If you can’t fill your PCA hours, MassHealth has now authorized Home Health agencies to fill these hours. If this is realistic for you or your family member, please contact your PCA management agency. Learn more here.
- On March 20, MassHealth submitted its initial waiver application related to the Coronavirus. See it here.
- As stated above, DDS and MassHealth are offering some flexible alternatives to address this crisis. But as in any crisis, the steps won’t resolve EVERY situation. That’s where you should seek help before your needs are urgent.
- Maintaining our Safety Net: Agencies providing residential services received word that they would receive predictable funding for the foreseeable future. Now Family Support Services, DDS Day programs, and MassHealth Day Habilitation require funding assurances.
What We Need or Will Need
- Maintain the safety net and existing service system. There is a high risk of significant layoffs. A financial plan for agencies that run day programs.
- Obtaining Personal Protective Equipment supplies for providers, LTSS staff, and families.
- Swift prior approvals of additional assistance for individuals and families in hardship, such as families who now have members home 24/7 who have acute behavioral or medical needs. There also are individuals living independently who now face more difficulties with staffing.
- Ensure special education services restart.
What You Can Do
- Within the next 24 hours, we will send some advocacy messaging and post on the action center.
- Respond to our ongoing COVID-19 Community Outreach Survey.
- Don’t wait if you need more in-home staffing. Share your needs with your agency or family support center.