COVID-19 Update
March 16, 2020

Template Letters to Families and Staff Regarding Day Program Closure 
Several Chapters have already suspended operation of site-based day programs as a strategy to minimize the spread of COVID-19, and we anticipate additional program closures will be occuring.  These operational changes must be communicated to OPWDD by submission of a specific plan via email to

These changes must also be communicated to families of individuals supported and Chapter staff.  To aid Chapters in this process, we have developed template letters to families and staff, which can be customized with Chapter-specific plan information. We encourage Chapters to communicate this information immediately when a decision is made to suspend operation of site-based day programs.

If you need assistance with communication of other decisions or issues, please contact Kate Geurin, Associate Executive Director of Communications. 

Background Checks
Several Chapters have reached out with questions regarding approaches toward emergency staffing and the required background checks in response to the COVID-19 situation. We have been in communication with the Justice Center to raise our concerns about the impact that any delays in processing of background checks will cause during this period. The Justice Center is working with OPWDD to elevate this matter to the Governor's Office. As the requirements for background checks are contained within New York State statute, waiving or modifying these requirements  would necessitate an amendment of law or an Executive Order by the Governor.
It is The Arc New York's position that immediate health and safety needs of the people we serve comes first, given the unprecedented circumstances we are facing. We have advised the Justice Center that our Chapters will work to comply with the existing statute and regulations, and will require completion of SEL checks for all employees. However, if there is need to deploy staff that are pending completion of background checks beyond the SEL, they will be deployed as necessary  to ensure the health and safety of the individuals we support
Please document your staffing decisions, should we need to justify them at a later date. Be thoughtful about where you deploy someone on an emergency basis who has not received full clearance to work with regular and substantial unsupervised contact with the people we support. 
We also raised this issue in our proposed recommendations for the Appendix K waiver, which addresses amendments to the HCBS Waiver program.

OPWDD Interim Guidance Regarding Delivery of Services Through Telehealth
OPWDD has published "Interim Guidance Regarding Delivery of Services Through Telehealth." The intention of this guidance is to offer an additional option to providers as we work to deliver essential services while minimizing the spread of COVID-19.  Chapters who proceed with the telehealth option should take special note of sections B, D and F of the guidance document. The telehealth option may be most beneficial for individuals on a 1-to-1 basis. Any services delivered must be determined to be clinically appropriate, and any equipment used to facilitate the service must meet HIPAA privacy and security regulations. 

There are additional documentation requirements that must be in place to secure claims for telehealth billing. Corporate Compliance Officers should review the requirements closely and implement internal systems for monitoring compliance if this option is enacted. 
The New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDFS) published additional guidance on the specific technologies that are authorized in the delivery of health care services. This information can be viewed here.  
If there are specific questions about this option please contact John Barbuto, Assistant Deputy Commissioner of OPWDD Statewide Services at (518) 474-5673.

NYSDOH Contacts of Contact Guidance
As cases of COVID-19 increase across New York state, several questions have arisen about the risk to contacts of contacts of a suspected or confirmed case. The New York State Department of Health has issued "Guidance on the Contacts of a Close or Proximate Contact of a Confirmed or Suspected Case of COVID-19." According to the guidance, if an asymptomatic employee is quarantined following contact with a confirmed case, any contacts they had at work are considered "contacts of a contact," and are permitted to continue to work. Chapters should keep this in mind when confronted with questions from staff and/or engaging with Local Health Department officials on any directive to quarantine staff.

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 
  • HR Directors 
  • PR Directors 
  • Quality & Compliance Staff 
  • Joint Committee on Quality & Compliance 
  • State Office Staff