Providers and County Boards of Developmental Disabilities,
Last week, I issued a letter to our community updating about coronavirus (COVID-19). As the situation rapidly evolves, the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) will continue to update with the best information we have and the steps we are taking to ensure continued support, and the health and safety of Ohioans with developmental disabilities.
In this critical time, we will all be required to work collaboratively, operate differently, and be proactive to limit the spread of COVID-19. We are here to listen and work on solutions for the challenges ahead. We urge providers and county boards of developmental disabilities to partner with one another and other local groups and resources.
DODD will continue all important day-to-day work with a continued focus on customer service. Additionally, considerable staff time and attention is being devoted to supporting providers and county boards who are working diligently to manage this in their communities for those they support.
The department is acutely aware of the financial burden, safety of staff and people supported, and concerns with following normal regulatory requirements. We fully realize there are on-the-ground issues that require flexibility from normal operations and will need DODD’s support and action through regulatory relief and payment flexibility. The department is working closely with the governor’s office to request the same flexibility of regulation and compliance items in a letter to the federal government. We are here to work with you to mitigate these issues to the best of our abilities. DODD staff members, including leadership and regional technical assistance teams, are being organized to connect with county boards and providers to offer assistance.
DODD has set up a dedicated web page for department communications and links to helpful resources that will advise people with disabilities, their families, service providers, direct support professionals, county boards, and the community at large.
The department is preparing for scenarios that might include quarantine or isolation measures to limit community spread. We have made the decision at the developmental centers to restrict visitor access and to stop off-campus day services. At this time, there is no mandated quarantine or stopping of day or other developmental disabilities services.
Governor Mike DeWine has required all schools, including public, private and county board-operated schools, to be closed for a three-week extended spring break following the end of the school day, Monday, March 16. The governor has also issued an executive order restricting most gatherings of 100 or more people.
We know that providers are taking steps to ensure safety through visitation restrictions, temporary stops to day services and community outings, and other preventative measures. Providers, county boards, and families need to make sensible judgments to focus on the health and safety of people with developmental disabilities. While we are unable to put orders and guidance together on every situation, DODD leadership and technical assistance staff are available to help work through situations.
Adult day providers will need to be creative in supporting smaller outings and taking preventative measures. If residential providers are not sending people to day providers, other providers need to communicate with one another and their county boards to ensure staff coverage and collaboration to continue supports.
DODD’s Community Life Engagement Team will conduct outreach to adult day, employment, and transportation providers to better understand prevention efforts, emergency response, and provider needs. We are aware of the financial implications of this on your business and are working to find solutions. We will continue to publish guidance and direction about services and supports.
We understand the difficult situation in which this places providers and county boards, and it is the department’s priority to work with you to support your needs in meeting the challenge. We know that it is the direct support professionals (DSPs) who are being called on to continue their critical support to Ohioans with developmental disabilities. We must all do what we can to ensure a continuity of those supports and to take steps to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
For specific questions about COVID-19 and additional information and resources, DODD urges you to use the Ohio Department of Health’s call center. Call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634), or visit coronavirus.ohio.gov. ODH call center staff include licensed nurses and experts. They will be available to answer questions and provide accurate information.
As we work through this together, we want to thank you for your patience and collaboration. We have compassion for situations and hardships but join you in a shared responsibility to save lives. Please continue to share your experiences and needs with your respective associations, or with the department, to help aid in supporting the system.
Together, we will be proactive and make decisions to best protect and support Ohioans with developmental disabilities, their families, and the professionals in our system.
To keep updated, please subscribe to DODD publications.
Director Jeff Davis