Parents, caregivers can now accompany child with disabilities to hospital amid pandemic safety concerns

Connecticut Families

(WTNH) — At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents with special needs children at home were unable to accompany them to the hospital if they got sick due to coronavirus safety concerns. Now, parents say they are relieved the rule has changed.

“It’s what kept me up at night,” explained Waterford’s Kate Haaland, mother of 25-year-old Chris. “That was just terrifying…we have a specific kind of protocol because he can be difficult. He has a lot of behaviors: he’s non-verbal, he’s deaf, he’s legally blind.”

But, she can calm her son and explain to him what’s going on because of their close relationship. Not being able to that was unimaginable.

“So, we decided we were going to stay-in [during the pandemic] because the thought of him having to go in an ambulance or treated in a hospital felt horrific and inhumane for him,” explains Kate.

After attempts to make change – including multiple requests for exceptions – parent advocates and The Arc Connecticut took action.

“We filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights in Washington DC,” says Catherine Cushman, Legal Director of Disability Rights Connecticut. “We asked them to take immediate action which is un-typical.”

And, last week, good news.

An Executive Order was issued, stating that: “Patients…may have one designated support person with them to support their disability-related needs…such designated support person may be a family member, a personal care assistant, or similar disability service provider…to physically or emotionally assist them.”

“It’s great, really a relief,” says Haaland.

While there’s some frustration that this took almost three months to work out, she hopes it sets an important precedent: “I think it’s a really big step so that people in Connecticut – legislators, the Governor – really look at disabilities rights as something that’s really important.”

Cushman says this order is important because it secures the future for patients and caregivers, in case the pandemic ramps-up again in the next few months.

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