Executive Director Update
April 3, 2020
Dear Chapter Staff and Volunteers,

While the State Office continues to provide daily updates on the myriad regulatory and legal changes being driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that the sheer quantity of information can be overwhelming. I want to ensure we stay collectively informed and unified around the work and mission of our organization. To that end, I will continue to share weekly messages with you throughout this crisis to summarize the most essential updates from the field and the response from The Arc New York.

Last week, I shared the difficult news that The Arc New York family had lost its first life to COVID-19. Since then, I am pained to report, that number has climbed to 14 deaths--- 12 people we serve, and two dedicated Direct Support Professionals who put themselves at risk to continue to support them. 

This week, we began surveying Chapters on the impact of COVID-19 throughout the state. The survey results are reported below, and will be shared with you on a weekly basis as we monitor the spread--- and some day the resolution--- of this crisis. This data is important for you to see. It informs both our advocacy and our response. By its nature, data is presented as merely numbers. However, we are deeply aware that these numbers represent so much more than statistics. They represent loved ones lost, and the ripples of grief that extend from those losses. They represent people fighting for their lives. People who are sick, isolated, confused, and afraid. But these numbers also represent people jumping into action to respond and help. They represent inspiring and devoted staff who have taken on a risk they never anticipated to come to work every day and support people in healing, in connecting with loved ones, and in finding opportunities for joy in the midst of unprecedented challenges.

If, in this difficult time, you need a reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the people of The Arc New York, visit The Arc New York Facebook page and take in the stories and smiles from around the state.

In my career, I have never seen the dedication to our mission exemplified so clearly as I do today. We at the State Office will continue working nonstop to provide support and guidance to our Chapters, to adapt and meet the challenges of this shifting landscape, and to advocate for the needs of the people we serve and the 30,000 staff who walk daily into the front lines of this fight.

I will continue to keep you updated as we work together to keep people safe and supported. This week's update can be found below.


Mark van Voorst
Executive Director 
The Arc New York 

Update on the Impact of COVID-19
The Arc New York is surveying Chapters weekly to keep apprised of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on each of our Chapters. This data helps inform our advocacy, and better anticipate and respond to Chapter needs. We will continue to monitor the trajectory of COVID-19 across the state and report to you weekly. The snapshot below reflects data reported by 29 of 41 Chapters as of Thursday, April 2. The Arc New York experienced an increase in all areas since Tuesday March 31, despite 4 fewer Chapters reporting. In total, Chapters identified:
  • 178 current confirmed cases of COVID-19 (92 individuals and 86 employees), an increase of 32 cases over March 31
  • 7 additional deaths since March 31, bringing the total to date to 14
  • 505 people currently under quarantine or isolation status (292 individuals and 213 employees), an increase of 45 cases
  • 195 people with presumptive COVID-19 (161 individuals and 34 employees), an increase of 14 cases
  • Presumptive COVID-19 is defined as "ANY febrile acute respiratory illness or clusters of acute respiratory illness (whether febrile or not) in ICF/IIDs, IRAs, CRs, and Private Schools in New York City, Long Island, Westchester County, or Rockland County unless testing reveals otherwise"
  • NOTE: The employee quarantine/isolation and presumptive COVID-19 numbers are likely higher than reported, as they do not include AHRC New York City or Rockland's counts, which were unavailable at the time of Wednesday's survey.  
Media and Advocacy
We continue to advocate daily for appropriate funding, necessary PPE and regulatory relief with our state leaders in response to the COVID-19 health emergency. Key advocacy efforts and media coverage in the past week include the following.
  • The Arc New York submitted a letter to the Governor and key state leaders calling for urgent support of New York's voluntary I/DD providers and Direct Support Professionals (DSP). The letter emphasized the role of DSPs as critical front-line healthcare workers and the need for enhanced wages and appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our staff, as well as hospital staff.  
  • The Arc New York also collaborated with other members of New York Disability Advocates (NYDA) to submit a letter to the Governor calling for enhanced rates and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for our front-line staff.
  • We also collaborated with NYDA to secure media coverage bringing the impact of COVID-19 on people with I/DD and the providers who support them into the public dialogue. On March 31, AHRC NYC Chief Executive Officer Marco Damiani discussed the complex challenges and dire consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for our field in this interview with NY1, which was followed by a powerful story in the New York Daily News and another story in the Queens Daily Eagle. 
Supply Procurement and Dissemination
As I'm sure you are aware, it has been an extremely challenging to get critical PPE supplies for our Chapters. We have been able secure limited amounts of supplies, including surgical masks, N95 respirators, face shields, gowns, gloves, and hand sanitizer. We have not been able obtain the full quantities needed, but we will continue to secure as much equipment as possible. We have received shipping notices for face shields and no-touch thermometers, anticipated for delivery April 7. In addition, we are expecting a shipment of 55,000 N95 respirators to arrive early next. We are in the process of finalizing another large order with additional surgical masks, N95 masks, and gowns for delivery on April 14. We are still searching for pulse oximeters. To date, the State Office has paid approximately $650,000 for items received and will incur an additional $400,000 with next week's orders.  

New York State Budget Update
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impact on the New York state and global economies has resulted in an Enacted Budget that maintains vital service and program appropriations, but does so with certain flexibilities that base spending throughout the year on actual revenue. The state will continue to seek additional federal assistance to help address immediate needs, and support the long-term viability of our system. The budget includes a Medicaid appropriation increase of 3%, reflecting much of the original Executive Budget language and initiatives summarized in January. The 2% Bfair workforce investment has been maintained, with an appropriation of nearly $75 million. A broader overview of the state budget and its implications on our field will follow.

Emergency Respite Facilities
We continue to work with OPWDD on ways to establish and fund temporary emergency intensive respite/stepdown facilities, which would provide care for individuals with COVID-19 who have either been discharged or diverted from a hospital, but are too sick to return to their residence or family. Placement would be authorized by a DDRO emergency placement contact. These facilities would be established at vacated certified sites, such as Respite Centers or other locations, would provide routine nursing support and DSP staffing, and be reimbursed at the Intensive Respite regional hourly fee. Settings would need to accommodate individuals from both IRAs and from family and caregiver homes in the community. More specific information on the setup, staffing and requirements for these facilities is being developed.

Background Check Relief
Executive Order 202.13 addresses the background check process for current employees of OPWDD providers seeking employment at a different OPWDD provider or program. The EO does not waive the requirement to check the Staff Exclusion List prior to hiring a new employee. We are hopeful this will bring much-awaited relief and expedite access to staff during this public health crisis. The New York State Justice Center for Protection of People with Special Needs is currently working with the State Oversight Agencies on an expedited process for completing background checks to help meet urgent staffing needs.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act
On Wednesday April 8, we will devote the majority of our call with the Executive Directors to discussing the applicability of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for our Chapters. Further guidance will be issued following that call.

State Office Budget
Due to the unavoidable cancellation of the May Board of Governors' meeting, and the fact that the State Office budget needs to be approved prior to the end of its fiscal year on May 31, the Executive Committee will be approving the budget under its authority to act between Board of Governor meetings. The proposed budget was loaded to BoardPaq prior to the February BOG meeting, and is included here for your review. Please submit any questions or comments to Cydni Borozny by 5 p.m. on April 10. Cyndi will present the budget and respond to questions in an upcoming webinar. A registration email with webinar details will be sent out shortly.

Thank you again for your patience and continued commitment in these trying circumstances. 

Mark van Voorst, Executive Director

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