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SSA Check-In Tips during COVID-19

The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) recognizes the efforts many county boards are making to ensure the health and welfare of Ohioans with developmental disabilities. Many county boards and service and support administrators (SSAs) have found creative and innovative ways to stay connected to people with disabilities, families, and providers, and positive processes have been put in place locally to identify needs and to support Ohioans with developmental disabilities through this difficult time. 

This communication is in response to questions DODD has received from the field. It is intended to support and supplement procedures that have already been put in place, not to replace them.

Every time you speak with a person with disabilities, it matters, so take this opportunity to make sure the person and their staff know how much you value them and what they have to say.

Consistent and quality communication with the people you support, their families, and their direct support professionals (DSPs) is important, but now it is more important than ever. Checking in with people to make sure they are healthy and safe is a top priority and offers the opportunity to learn more about the person you support. This is an opportunity to build and grow relationships, whether you have known someone for years or recently met.

Please ensure your processes address the guidelines below. Your organization should have a coordinated communication process to ensure multiple calls are not made to the same provider.

Communication with People with Developmental Disabilities

  • Times to communicate with people on your caseload:
    • People who live alone: at least one time weekly
      • Run the risk of isolation
      • Limited amount of Homemaker/Personal Care (HPC) support
    • People with complex needs: at least one time weekly
      • History of suicide attempts, anxiety, mental health, medical issues, etc.
    • Everyone else: at least one time every two weeks
  • What you should ask and share during your communication:
    • Share with the person how often and when you will contact them.
    • Find out how they would like to communicate.
    • Confirm they have your correct contact information.
    • Assist with searching for a provider when needed.
    • Discovery.
  • After checking in about health and safety issues or concerns, conversations with a person are great opportunities for discovery and learning. What is most important to people is coming to the surface right now, either because it is happening or because it is not happening. Even if the person can’t answer right now, ask them to think about it.
    • Ask follow-up questions that lead to discovery.
      • (Example: Person: “I miss my day program.” SSA can ask: “What do you miss most about day program? Who do you miss? What activities do you miss?”)
    • Ask about what the person is enjoying doing at home.
      • What do they like or not like about their new routine?

Communication with DSP or Provider

  • Communicate with all providers serving people with disabilities on your caseload (unless assigned to another county board staff member).
    • Check in to see what would be a convenient time to talk to the provider or DSP. Consider that certain times of the day may be busier and more difficult for them to talk with you.
    • Confirm they have your correct contact information.
    • Share where to find COVID-19 information.
    • Find out how they prefer to communicate and how often.
    • Confirm they know where to find updated medical information in case it needs to be shared with medical professionals.
  • After checking in about health and safety issues or concerns, having conversations with the DSP are great opportunities for discovery and learning:
    • “What are you learning about?” (Even if the DSP can’t answer right now, ask them to think about it.)
      • What matters most to the person?
      • What helps the person feel safe?
      • What has changed for the person?
      • What supports matter and what supports don’t matter right now?
      • What’s working or not working? What have you tried that worked well? What have you tried that didn’t work well?
      • Identify opportunities to support what is important to a person in a new way. Many activities can still happen at home. Examples:
        • Missing friends? Make a phone call, talk on Skype, etc. 
        • Miss going to video store to rent games? Suggest an online option for video game rental.
        • Miss going to the Mexican restaurant? Start Taco Tuesday at home.
  • Identify providers who are not providing services.
    • Because the person has other support
    • Because they are not comfortable continuing to provide services

Communication with Families

  • Call families or guardians.
    • Confirm they have ways to communicate with their loved ones.
    • Confirm they have your correct contact information.
    • Share where to find coronavirus (COVID-19) information.
    • Find out how they prefer to communicate and how often (call, text, email, etc.).

Communication with People with Disabilities, Families, and Guardians in Process of Eligibility Determination, Change in Waiver Status, etc.

  • Contact people who are in the process of transitioning into the system or have a change in status.
    • Let them know current status and timelines.
    • Offer any support options.
    • Confirm they have correct contact information should they have questions.
    • Track status of these cases so that they are transitioned as soon as possible.