The past week was an eventful one with gains in supporting staff with premium pay including additional reimbursement for agencies, and further movement toward our health care goals. In this update, we’ll give you short recaps of those gains, touch on the 2020 Census (yes – still trying to increase responses!), and cover federal activity.
- Massachusetts COVID-19 Statistics
- Staff Premium Pay and Other COVID-19 Costs
- Health Care Accomplishments
- Direct Support Staff Recognition
- 2020 Census Update
- HCBS Funding for Federal Stimulus #4
Massachusetts COVID-19 Statistics
Governor Baker reported that the rate of COVID-19 virus growth has flattened in the past week. Comparing two days (April 29 – May 1 and April 21 – April 23) from each of the last two weeks, the reports reflect 800 fewer positive cases despite more testing, and deaths dropping from 399 to 311.
Thanks to Representative Josh Cutler’s post on Facebook this past weekend, we have some statistics for 10,000 plus individuals served through the Department of Development Services residential network. The individuals are served in a variety of home settings, with 332 individuals served at two large state facilities.
Legislators have asked the Governor’s COVID-19 Command Center to include more data on these group homes in their regular updates. It’s hard to compare the DDS residential stats with Massachusetts citizens for three reasons:
- major ramp up in testing of our constituents resulted in 26% being tested vs. less than 4% of our general population
- the global testing of our constituents began relatively recently, due to lack of testing materials nationally
- the data may have inaccuracies despite being collected centrally, since reports are coming in from 2,353 group home settings
As of April 28, 911 of the 2,600 individuals living in the residential system have tested positive and there have been 34 deaths. Our thoughts are with the families and staff of those who have been lost to the virus. Please note that these number don’t reflect the status of the tens of thousands living with families or living independently in the Commonwealth.
Staff Premium Pay and Other COVID-19 Costs
On April 27, we reported that Secretary Sudders announced $44 million in additional funding for community residential services for additional COVID-19 costs. The funding must be directed to:
- Staffing such as premium pay, overtime, extended staffing schedules and relief costs
- Infection control – such as deep cleaning, removal of garbage daily and other housekeeping
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – including gloves, masks (shields when needed), gowns, etc.
- Alternative housing for staff working in quarantined homes or recovery settings
Health Care Accomplishments
The Arc has been active in the Health Care issues during the COVID-19 crisis. The activity has included:
- Addressing the Commonwealth’s Crisis Standards of Care to address health equity in collaboration with two groups
- Communicating with Commonwealth’s leaders on the issue including the Administration, Legislature and the office of the Attorney General
- Communicating with all the Commonwealth’s hospitals on health equity including setting up a webpage for disability awareness of triage staff members
- Collaborating on ensuring accommodations for individuals admitted to hospitals
Direct Support Staff Recognition
Across the state, families and agencies are showing their appreciation to our essential staff working at homes and apartments across the Commonwealth. We thank all of staff for being committed to our community. Here are two demonstrations of our appreciation from across the state from our friends at The Arc of Plymouth and Upper Cape Cod and Berkshire County Arc.
2020 Census Update
Massachusetts is presently 19th among states in census enrollment, and above the national average by 2%. Nationwide, we’ve only reached 53.7% of our goal.
This total is not hard to understand when compared to national voting averages under 50%, except for 2018 when 53.4% of the voting age population exercised their rights. We continue to work with The Arc, our network, and state partners.
HCBS Funding for Federal Stimulus #4
Last week, we shared an excerpt from “Governing”, a newsletter for states and municipalities which reviewed the toll the COVID 19 response is taking on state budgets. We need everyone to take action on the #WeAreEssential campaign, so the next package includes our full ask for the disability community.
You can share your story here. The tool requires you to answer 3 simple questions and then it will help you send your story to your federal legislators.
The focus of the advocacy is:
- Funding for a Medicaid grant program to support access to home and community-based services that lessen the risk of people with disabilities being put into institutions and to support the workforce
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) for direct support professionals
- Paid leave for all caregivers