For Immediate Release

                                                                              Contact: Katrin Haldeman
New York State’s Response to the
COVID-19 Pandemic Leaves Individuals with
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) Behind
Albany, NY, March 9, 2021 – Today, Disability Rights New York (DRNY), the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) jointly published a report titled, “New York State’s Response to Protect People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Group Homes During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The report details a joint investigation of New York State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as related to group homes certified by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). The investigation confirmed that individuals with I/DD in these congregate settings have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. 
“New York State has not been transparent about how this crisis has impacted people with I/DD, consistently withholding from the public information about COVID-19 infections and deaths amongst individuals residing in group homes and the staff who support them. This deprives families, policymakers, provider agencies, and the scientific community of data essential to reduce exposure, contain outbreaks, and prevent deaths.”
Tim Clune, Executive Director, Disability Rights New York.
"Group homes have been under-funded and under-staffed for years, then the coronavirus hit. The state's historic failure to support and serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities has long been a crisis, but inaction during the pandemic worsened conditions and created a tragedy. Group homes are prime locations for the spread of the coronavirus, and New York State failed to prioritize the health and safety needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. People with I/DD have experienced disproportionate and unnecessary death and infection rates, and have continued to do so as the pandemic surged again.”
Beth Haroules, Senior Staff Attorney, NYCLU

“With multiple studies concluding that people with disabilities are significantly more susceptible to contracting and dying from COVID-19, it is unconscionable that the State has not done more for its most vulnerable citizens in group homes. At the bare minimum, people with disabilities who are entrusted in the care of the State have the right to personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID testing, and appropriate quarantining conditions.”
Ruth Lowenkron, Director of NYLPI’s Disability Justice Program

On December 18, 2020, DRNY, NYCLU, and NYLPI provided a draft of the Report to Governor Cuomo, OPWDD, and the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). The response we received from OPWDD and NYSDOH on February 1, 2021 does not set forth information that changes the findings of the Report.

The Report’s recommendations for clear guidance, transparency, prioritization for PPE, financial support, and robust testing and staffing protocols remain relevant and appropriate and are critical to improving service delivery and infection management in this and future pandemics.

DRNY is the designated independent non-profit Protection & Advocacy System empowered by Congress to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect and provide legal and non-legal advocacy services to people with disabilities in New York State. The Protection & Advocacy System was created by Congress as a direct result of the horrific conditions that were uncovered in the 1970's at New York’s Willowbrook State School.

DRNY is supported at tax payer expense by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, The Administration for Community Living; Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration; U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration; and, the Social Security Administration. This press release does not represent the views, positions or policies of, or the endorsements by, any of these federal agencies.
Disability Rights New York |