COVID-19 Update
March 24, 2020

Executive and Administrative Advocacy
The Arc New York submitted an advocacy letter to OPWDD on behalf of the Provider Association, requesting urgent and immediate changes to their Contact Tracing Forms and process. We will keep you informed regarding their feedback and any changes generated by our advocacy. We have also collaborated on a letter to Governor Cuomo requesting immediate funding and regulatory relief field-wide. A draft of the letter can be found here. Once all necessary sign-offs are secured, a final version of the letter will be submitted to the Governor's Office. 

Executive Order 202.10
The latest Executive Order ( 202.10) significantly relaxes scope-of-practice restrictions for many health care professionals and increases the capacity of the state's health care system to respond to COVID-19. 

Justice Center Position on No Visitor Policy Complaints
Since Chapters have begun initiating OPWDD's no visitor policy at IRAs and ICFs, several have reported that families continue to request to take their loved one home for the weekend or other short home visits. This has led to questions about the Justice Center's position on reports received from family members in response to a Chapter restricting access to the IRA upon return from a visit. We reached out to the Justice Center who advised that if they receive a report of this nature, they would classify this as a Non-NYJC Referral to OPWDD. The report would then be viewed as an internal issue for OPWDD.

OPWDD Residential Site Survey
OPWDD and provider agencies are working to ensure we have the necessary capacity in this challenging environment to support the needs of individuals in our care. Toward that end, OPWDD had released a survey to collect information regarding potential sites/spaces that could support residential needs, if necessary. They have requested that providers respond to the survey by 5 p.m. on March 30.

New York State Court Activity on Hold
By administrative order of the Chief Judge for New York State, all court activity except for essential proceedings is on hold at this time. A full list of essential proceedings can be found here.

Updated Telehealth Guidance
The New York State Department of Health released updated "Comprehensive Guidance Regarding Use of Telehealth including Telephonic Services During the COVID-19 State of Emergency."  Chapters should pay special attention to:
  • Section F- Details on "Store and Forward" method of service delivery 
  • Section G, V- Guidance on consent for telehealth services
  • Section VII- Details resources for Medicaid beneficiaries with a lack of access (devices) 
The Department of Finance also shared an FAQ with financial guidance on telehealth delivery and billing. 

OPWDD Training Guidance  
OPWDD has published " Interim Guidance Regarding Abbreviated/Refresher Training and Recertifications to Address COVID-19 Emergency Response." The guidance allows OPWDD-approved providers to immediately abbreviate several trainings for new and existing employees. New employees must receive training within 120 days of onboarding. Select annual training requirements for existing employees are extended for 90 days. Initial and annual testing for tuberculosis is temporarily waived, and screening will be performed in lieu of full PPD testing. OPWDD is finalizing an abbreviated Medication Administration Course for use with onboarding new employees and to satisfy the annual recertification requirements. Annual Medication Administration Certification is extended for 90 days for staff who have routinely administered medications. 

Clarification on Matilda's Law
We have received questions about the Governor's recent announcement of Matilda's Law, which is part of the Governor's New York State on PAUSE order. It is now clear that this was not intended to apply to all people with I/DD, but rather those ages 70 and over and those with compromised immune systems. To the extent your Chapter serves someone in either of those categories, the following restrictions are in place:
  • Remain indoors, except for going outside for solitary exercise
  • Pre-screen all visitors by taking their temperature
  • Wear a mask in the company of others
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others
  • Do not take public transportation
Clarification on OPWDD Meeting Summary
Follow-up discussion with OPWDD resulted in the following clarifications to the meeting summary originally sent March 22:
  • the IRA enhanced rate period will begin on the 3/18 DH closure date, and will remain throughout the duration of the crisis;
  • for providers that closed before the 3/18 closure order, the broad language allowing for rate adjustment based upon utilization may be a secondary option;
  • the utilization language referenced above could be applied to DH, Residential, CH and Respite;
  • for self-direction individuals who are quarantined, the FI can pay the worker, and be reimbursed, for the services and scheduled hours that would have typically been delivered; this applies during the 3/18-3/31 retainer period, subject to extension or alternate accommodation based upon ongoing work with CMS;
  • we have conveyed that the additional 6 hours added for the enhanced IRA rate would need to be "peak hours" not average hours, since a straight average is understated by diminished nighttime hours and weekday/daytime hours; it appears the language would be broad enough to address this and information will be shared with DOH.
Federal Advocacy Update and Action Alert
Legislation continues to move through Congress to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial support package passed by congress last week was a good start in addressing the needs of individuals and families within the disability community including:  
  • A 6.2% increase in federal reimbursement for state Medicaid programs (FMAP), which will help state governments in their efforts to combat the pandemic;
  • Emergency requirements for all health insurers to cover testing;
  • Expanded nutrition assistance and crucial waivers for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and school meals;
  • Expanded unemployment insurance; and
  • Limited paid sick day and paid leave provisions that do not explicitly include caregivers for people with disabilities.
It is essential that this legislation includes provisions to support people with disabilities, family caregivers, and the direct support professional workforce.
The Arc of the US has launched a campaign called #WeAreEssential to help promote this critical message. More information about the issues can be found here , and an advocacy toolkit is available to support people in taking action. 

Chapter Governance
Many Chapters have asked about how to handle upcoming annual meetings, typically held in the spring to elect officers and board members. Our meetings require a certain quorum of in-person members (20 or 50 depending on Chapter membership size). At this time, please defer membership meetings until it is safe to meet in person; you should carry over your current officers and board members until that time. W e plan to proceed on schedule for the NYSARC elections, as they will only require minimal paperwork by Chapter boards over the next several months.

Nixon-Peabody Guidance Webinar
Nixon-Peabody is hosting a webinar "COVID-19: The latest updates and guidance for hospitals and health care entities," The webinar will discuss new developments, changing requirements and the impact that COVID-19 continues to have on hospitals and health care providers on Wednesday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. Register here

CDC Clinician Outreach and Community Action (COCA) PPE Webinar
CDC Clinician Outreach and Community Action (COCO) is offering a webinar for healthcare professionals, "Optimization Strategies for Healthcare Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)" on Wednesday, March 25 from 2-3 p.m. You can join via zoom  or Facebook Live on the COCA Facebook Page.

Combat Price Gouging on Essential Supplies
The NYS DOH has a hotline (1-800-697-1220) or consumer complaint form to report unfair price increases of products such as household cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Free Comcast Internet Opportunity for Downstate Chapters
For downstate Chapters in the Comcast service catchment, their Internet Essentials program is now free for 2 months to new, low-income customers. Learn more here

This and all related updates will be cataloged on The Arc New York COVID-19 Resource Page  for future reference. Please contact us if you have questions regarding any of this information.

Josh Christiana , Associate Executive Director for Quality, Compliance & Chapter Relations

This email was sent to:
  • President Jack Kowalczyk 
  • Board of Governors 
  • Chapter Presidents
  • Executive Directors 
  • Chief Operating Officers
  • Chief Financial Officers  
  • HR Directors 
  • PR Directors 
  • Quality & Compliance Staff 
  • Joint Committee on Quality & Compliance 
  • State Office Staff