Group homes for developmentally disabled looking for state guidance during pandemic

Coronavirus

BETHEL, Conn. (WTNH) — The alliance for nonprofits has been raising red flags for weeks. The organization said there’s no state guidance for group homes.

For instance, what happens when staff or a client gets sick during this pandemic?

News 8 visited Ability Beyond in Bethel, where staff have they’ve taken matters into their own hands.

The nonprofit serves more than 450 people with developmental disabilities. The average age of clients is 50; however, many are in their 80s.

Since many of those they help are more at risk for the virus, workers are preparing a COVID-19 isolation unit.

Jane Davis, CEO Ability Beyond, said it’s a little intimidating for people with disabilities who don’t quite understand why is everyone wearing a mask or why they’re being asked to wear one.

Davis said the 28-bed unit for COVID positive and COVID uncertain patients is necessary. Of the 70 group homes the nonprofit runs in Connecticut and New York, a dozen clients have tested positive for coronavirus.

Caretakers are burning through isolation kits, and without guidance from the state, Ability Beyond decided it was safer to separate sick clients.

“We want to make sure the other people in the house who are still healthy, still doing really well are separated from any potential illness right away,” Davis said.

The State Department of Public Health visited to make sure the unit is safe.

Whether it is a client coming out of the hospital for recovery, or newly diagnosed patient the COVID-19, the unit is now ready.

Ability Beyond requested protective gear from the state but none came, so they spent upwards of $50,000 to buy it. Now, they’re desperate for isolation gowns.

Financially, Ability Beyond relies on Medicaid. The state announced a 10% rate increase for intermediate care facilities. Ability Beyond is grateful, but the CEO said it will not cover the estimated $1.5 million in losses. He said group home essential workers have not been included in government incentives.

“We haven’t seen anything yet. We could really, really use that additional funding to help get us through this crisis.”

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