August 27, 2021
VOR Weekly News Update
VOR is a national non-profit organization that advocates for
high quality care and human rights for all people with
intellectual and developmental disabilities.

VOR promises to empower you to make and protect quality of life choices for individuals with developmental disabilities

Please Help Us To Better Help You
Get Involved

Here at VOR, we are always looking for members who want to get involved in helping us to continue our mission of supporting high quality care and human rights for all people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and supporting their families, their guardians, and their caregivers.

This is a great time to join in. All it takes is a few hours of your time each month and a willingness to help.

  • We need active members in each state, willing to coordinate with each other to reach out to more individuals and families.

  • We need people to help with our marketing and communications, to help us spread our message.

VOR promises to help you to become a better advocate for your loved ones with I/DD.

Contact us at [email protected]

State News:
North Carolina - Pandemic Cut a Deep Swath through NC’s Centers for People with Intellectual, Developmental Disabilities
By Thomas Goldsmith, North Carolina Health Care News, August 25, 2021
Note: The following is a sobering account of the effects of Covid-19 on three ICFs in North Carolina and the diligent efforts to keep it in check.

As Christmas 2020 approached, so did a surge of the novel coronavirus that was to bring more than 1,100 cases to North Carolina’s three state-run residential centers for some of North Carolina’s most vulnerable people.

Residents and staff at the state-run centers that house people with intellectual and developmental disabilities had seen 367 cases of COVID-19 among staff and residents by early December. But three months later, by the first week of March, the institutions had reported an increase of more than 270 percent. And a higher rate of infection took place at the N.C. centers than at equivalent centers in several other states, according to researchers tracking these outbreaks.

For public, private and nonprofit public health leaders charged with keeping vulnerable people safe, the onslaught of COVID-19 became a nightmare of growing intensity. The residents of facilities such as Murdoch Developmental Center in Granville County, with 458 beds, have “severe and profound disabilities” that mean many are unable to walk, communicate by typical means and frequently have uncontrolled seizures.
Facing a need even greater than that of the general population, administrators found that demand far outweighed the supply of brand new COVID-19 vaccines available for this population.

“At the very beginning, between January and February, we were only getting access to a few hundred vaccine doses each week,” Lisa Macon Harrison, public health director for Granville and Vance counties, said in a telephone interview. “And the demand for those few hundred doses was tens of thousands of people who qualified for those doses.”
Trying to protect residents and health-care professionals was “devastating” in the early days of the pandemic, said Harrison, who worked with state officials tasked with assigning vaccine-dose levels per county.

“I remember clearly being on the phone with the state on the day that we realized that there was an outbreak,” she said. “It was really a challenge to make sure that we fulfilled our role at the local level when we were completely understaffed and overrun with the onslaught of demand for vaccines that was happening.”

Iowa - Governor Reynolds Takes First Trip to the Village
By Justin Rust, NWIowa News, August 23, 2021

Village Northwest Unlimited president and CEO Barry Whitsell had two messages for Gov. Kim Reynolds when she made her first-ever visit to the campus.

Whitsell’s first message to Reynolds was to thank her for increasing the funding for people with disabilities in the 2021-22 fiscal year state budget.

His next message to Reynolds as she was touring the two new intermediate-care homes on the Village’s campus in Sheldon on Tuesday, Aug. 10, was that the increase wasn’t enough.

Reynolds put an increase of 3.5 percent in the 2021-22 budget.

Those in charge of facilities for adults with disabilities asked for a 10 percent increase.

“Part of our conversation with her was to thank her for including the increase and to remind her that we asked for 10 percent,” Whitsell said. “We would love for her to make up the difference, which is still 6.5 percent away.”

The Village was chosen to be a representative of all of the providers by the Iowa Association of Community Providers.

Whitsell said the Village was selected to host Reynolds for a few reasons.

“We’ve been very active in advocating for rate increases so we can help with the shortage of direct support professionals,” Whitsell have. “We have one of the largest facilities and offer day programs and community employment. We have the reputation of being a quality organization that provides comprehensive services.

“And we just built these new homes and it’s always good for the governor to see new construction.”
While Whitsell was hoping for the full 10 percent increase to the budget, the 3.5 percent increase was a “wonderful thing.”

“For some of our programs, we had gone five years without an increase and some programs two years without an increase,” Whitsell said. “We reminded her of the terrible workforce shortage going on. Serving 24 hours a day for 365 days, it’s not as easy as closing the door so it’s vital to provide competitive wages so the people we care for can get the care they deserve because they are some of the most vulnerable Iowans.”

The increase in funding did amount to a dollar an hour increase for all direct support professionals, who develop and maintain a relationship with the individuals served along with assisting individuals with daily living tasks and social skills areas.

However, the full 10 percent bump in funding would have equated to an increase of $3 an hour for direct support professionals.

“That’s where we wanted to get for all direct support professionals across the state of Iowa,” Whitsell said.

Maryland Organization Works to Educate Police Departments on Intellectual Disabilities
By Randi Bass, WDVM News, August 24, 2021
Raising awareness and challenging misconceptions. That’s the goal for one Maryland-based organization working with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities like autism.

The Pathfinders for Autism Organization is based in Baltimore County, but they made a stop in Montgomery County as part of their state-wide summer tour on Tuesday. The group says it’s had a long-standing relationship with Montgomery County Police and the department’s unit that specializes in responding to incidents involving people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities.
“In a medical situation, a person with autism may not be able to communicate verbally. So, we share techniques on how first responders can communicate alternatively. It’s not them being difficult or refusing to cooperate with the police,” said Rebecca Rienzi, the executive director for Pathfinders for Autism.

The organization says one in six Marylanders has an intellectual or developmental disability and one out of every 52 Maryland children has autism.

California - How a Hospital Becomes a Costly Hotel for Patients Who Can’t Leave
UC Davis Health News, August 5, 2021

Most patients at UC Davis Medical Center prefer not to stay in the hospital any longer than necessary. Families and friends also want to see loved ones get home rapidly. And the medical center’s care teams always want their patients safely discharged as soon as possible, too. They need the beds for that constant flow of patients who require UC Davis Health’s acute-care services, which include highly specialized tertiary and quaternary care.

But some patients can’t leave the hospital, even after being medically cleared for discharge. Their hospitalizations can be measured in months, and sometimes in years.

These patients are in health care limbo, stuck in costly hospital rooms because other care facilities – more appropriate to their needs – cannot or will not accept them.

Such patients typically have physical, cognitive, or mental health disabilities, sometimes all together. For these patients, living independently is impossible. They need a certain level of help and care, but not a hospital’s level of care. Finding placement is difficult, and sometimes impossible.

As a result, the patients remain hospitalized and UC Davis Health absorbs the costs of their unnecessary care day after day, month after month, year after year. And with the average daily inpatient cost in California being about $3,700, a room at the medical center – for patients who need little or no acute care – essentially becomes the most expensive hotel room in the region. In a hospital that regularly runs at over 95% capacity, each occupied bed is one less available to another patient who needs it.

“More important than the costs,” added Kirk, UC Davis Health’s chief medical officer, “is the simple fact that these patients would be much better off in a care setting that actually meets their needs. Other types of facilities offer group activities, interactions with other people, outdoor exercise, and even the fresh air of a walk outside. An academic medical center like UC Davis is not designed for any of that.”

It is not surprising that it’s difficult to find a group home or assisted living facility that will accept one of the medical center’s extreme long-term patients. Those who remain at UC Davis Medical Center after being medically cleared are still very challenging to care for. Many older patients suffer severe dementia or developmental disabilities, to the degree that their family, if they have one, can no longer care for them.
Other patients are impaired by severe mental illness and may have aggressive behaviors toward others.

Both types of patients can have chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or paralysis, which don’t require a trauma center’s expertise but still require close attention and skilled resources, especially when the patient’s decision -making capacity is impaired by their illness.

COVID-19 Updates:
11 States, Cities Requiring COVID-19 Vaccination for Healthcare Workers
By Kelly Gooch, Becker's Hospital Review, August 19, 2021

The number of cities and states requiring COVID-19 vaccination for employees is growing amid the latest COVID-19 wave.
Here are the cities and states that have announced mandates in August:

1. Maryland is requiring vaccination or regular testing for nursing home and hospital employees, The Washington Post reported Aug. 18. Workers must receive their first dose by Sept. 1 or undergo regular screening and testing.

2. New Mexico said Aug. 17 that workers in certain medical close-contact congregate settings, including hospitals and nursing homes, must be vaccinated, with limited exceptions. Unless they qualify for an exemption, unvaccinated workers must receive their first dose within 10 days of Aug. 17, and their second dose, as needed, within 40 days of receiving the first one.

3. Washington, D.C., is requiring that healthcare workers receive at least the first dose of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, officials said Aug. 16. Workers must be vaccinated by Sept. 30. 

4. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Aug. 16 that the state is requiring healthcare workers to get their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by Sept. 27. The requirement includes staff at hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. These facilities must develop and implement a policy mandating employee vaccinations, with limited exceptions for workers with religious or medical reasons, the governor said. 

5. Philadelphia is requiring that healthcare workers be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 twice per week, ABC 6 reported Aug. 13. Healthcare workers must be vaccinated by Oct. 15 unless they have a religious or medical exemption.

6. Maine will require healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1, officials said Aug. 12. The requirement applies to those employed by a hospital, multilevel healthcare facility, home health agency, nursing facility, residential care facility, and intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities that is licensed by the state. The requirement also applies to those employed by emergency medical service organizations or dental practices.

7. In Pennsylvania, about 25,000 employees in state healthcare facilities and high-risk congregate care facilities will be required to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 7, Gov. Tom Wolf's office said Aug. 10. Unvaccinated employees must get tested weekly. Mr. Wolf's office said his state is also requiring that all new external hires in these facilities get vaccinated before beginning employment, starting Sept. 7. 

8. In Rhode Island, healthcare workers at facilities licensed by the state, including private facilities and state-run hospitals, must get fully vaccinated by Oct. 1, The Boston Globe reported Aug. 10, citing an announcement from Gov. Dan McKee. Unvaccinated employees must get tested twice a week and continue to mask up. After Oct. 1, any unvaccinated healthcare worker without an exemption will not be allowed to report to work, the Globe reported Aug. 17.
9. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation Aug. 9 requiring that most state employees and all healthcare workers be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. The requirement applies to most state executive branch employees and on-site contractors and volunteers, along with public and private healthcare and long-term care workers, the governor said.

10. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Aug. 6, instituting a vaccination requirement for workers in certain state and private healthcare facilities and high-risk congregate settings. Workers must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 7, or be subject to testing at least one to two times weekly. 

11. California issued an order Aug. 5 requiring workers in healthcare to be vaccinated. The order applies to workers in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities, ambulatory surgery centers and most other healthcare settings. Workers who do not qualify for a medical or religious exemption need to receive their second shot by Sept. 30. Unvaccinated exempt workers must meet testing and safety requirements.

Home Health Agencies, Paramedics Fear Staff Exits after Maine’s Vaccine Mandate
By Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News, August 19, 2021

As health care workers face Maine’s new requirement to get a COVID-19 vaccine or lose their job, there is increased worry among behavioral health agencies and paramedics that it will add to long-standing staffing shortages.

Gov. Janet Mills said last week that her mandate to require immunizations by Oct. 1 at once across the state was meant to guard against staffing shortages and ensure patient safety. But in health care industries that compete with others offering wages equal or better than their own, the risk may be more real as holdouts contemplate complying or quitting.

The stakes are rising as cases surge in Maine and the U.S. almost solely among unvaccinated people.
The Democratic governor’s mandate for health care workers was one of the strongest in the country with no testing alternative, though President Joe Biden’s administration said Wednesday that nursing homes will lose critical federal funding if they do not require the shot.

While it is unclear how many will leave the workforce over the requirement, opposition has been vocal. Health care workers and Republican politicians opposed to the mandate have rallied in Portland, Bangor and Augusta. A Tuesday meeting of Maine’s EMS board was pushed back to Monday after a flood of people looking to join the virtual call exceeded a 200-person cap.

At Bangor-based OHI, there are 82 job openings across 380 positions. The agency providing support and direct-care services for people with intellectual disabilities, autism and mental illnesses has had to close four group homes because it could not fill vacancies. Some staff are now practically living in the homes to care for charges with complex needs.

“I don’t know if the governor was thinking about us when she said that,” Bonnie-Jean Brooks, OHI’s president and CEO, said in reference to Mills’ comments last week.

Maine has one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation and health care professionals are largely vaccinated. In hospitals, more than 80 percent were fully vaccinated as of July 31. The rates in nursing homes and intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities were considerably lower at 73 percent and 68 percent, respectively.

State of Nebraska Touts 'No Mandated COVID-19 Vaccine' in Job Ads for Vets Homes, Other Institutions
By Martha Stoddard and Julie Anderson, Omaha World-Herald, August 24, 2021

A Bellevue state senator and several medical officials are raising "grave concerns" about a state pitch to fill jobs working with some of Nebraska's most vulnerable residents.

In recent advertisements, the state touts its lack of a COVID-19 vaccination mandate to attract applicants for nursing and nursing assistant positions at a variety of state institutions.

Those institutions include Nebraska's four veterans homes, which care for aging veterans and their spouses. They also include the Beatrice State Developmental Center, which houses people with developmental disabilities, many of whom have additional physical disabilities.

Others include the state's psychiatric hospitals, the state-run facilities for juvenile offenders and the prisons.

Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue said she heard from countless people in her district about the ads, particularly family members of veterans home residents. She sent a letter Monday to Gov. Pete Ricketts and the state Department of Veterans Affairs questioning the tactic.

"This is especially concerning knowing that recently, nearly 60 medical organizations joined together stating that all health care workers should be vaccinated against COVID-19, yet Nebraska is actively encouraging those who are not vaccinated to come and work with our veterans," she said.

Blood acknowledged the state's struggles to fill nursing jobs, but said that "putting those who live in these facilities at risk because we need to find bodies to hire is not acceptable."

VOR Bill Watch:
[Please click on blue link to view information about the bill]


Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-WI) has introduced two bills in the House to support
Vocational Centers and 14(c) Wage Certificates:

H.R.4761 - A bill to amend the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to ensure workplace choice and opportunity for young adults with disabilities.

H.R.4762 - A Bill to amend the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to clarify the definition of competitive integrated employment.


H.R.4131 & S.2210 - The Better Care Better Jobs Act - We don't oppose this bill. We object to the fact that it excludes the most vulnerable members of the I/DD population.

While the Better Care Better Jobs Act would greatly increase the amount of federal funding for people with I/DD, it only supports those in waiver programs receiving Home and Community Based Services. It unjustly discriminates against those who have chosen Intermediate Care Facilities as the necessary and proper form of residential treatment. By giving a 10% increase n federal matching funds only to HCBS clients, and providing training and increased pay only to direct support professionals working in HCBS facilities, the act deliberately favors one form of treatment over another, one ideology over another, and one set of people with I/DD over another.

H.R. 603 & S. 53 - The Raise the Wage Act - These bills are aimed at raising the minimum wage, but they also have provisions to phase out and ultimately eliminate vocational centers and 14 (c) wage certificates over the next six years and to immediately stop the issuing of any new certificates. VOR believes the issue of employment options for individuals with intellectual disabilities should not be buried in a bill for raising the federal minimum wage. Both issues deserve clean, stand-alone bills.

H.R.1880 - To amend the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 to make permanent the Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration.

H.R. 2383 - The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act - this bill purports to assist employers providing employment under special certificates issued under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 in transforming their business and program models to models that support individuals with disabilities through competitive integrated employment, to phase out the use of these special certificates. We feel that, if enacted, tens of thousands of people with I/DD and autism will still be forced out of opportunities they currently, needlessly, and left without viable alternatives to occupy their time or address their needs and their abilities.
Direct Support Professionals:

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We encourage our members to speak with their loved ones' caregivers to extend this offer of our gratitude.

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with your name, email address, and the name of the facility at which you work. Please include the name of the VOR member who told you of this offer.

What's Happening In Your Community?

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