Communities support people with developmental and intellectual disabilities during COVID-19

Virtually every community in the D.C. region is taking a hit during the coronavirus pandemic, including a Maryland support group for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“The two sticky points for us are supplies, and the second sticky point—how we pay these folks who are not coming in to do their regular day job,” said Rob Malone, executive director of The Arc Prince George’s County.

Malone said their day programs are closed due to the pandemic, but their group homes are open.

“The folks that we support, for the most part, cannot live without their support—particularly if they’re in our group homes,” Malone told WTOP.

About one-fifth of their staff members, some who worked with clients before the day programs closed, are now filling in shifts at the organization’s group homes.

“But for the other ones…we don’t have—even if they were working—a reimbursement mechanism, because they’re not doing what they typically would do that is funded,” Malone said.

Malone said the day program staffers are mostly lower-income workers.

“If we had them come in to do office work or clean the office or do whatever we wanted them to do, or needed to be done, there’s no funding source to pay them to come in and do it—the way our system is set up,” Malone said.

It isn’t certain what will be funded during this crisis, but the dreaded eight-letter “F” word is a possibility.

“We will have to furlough staff if the [Maryland] Developmental Disabilities Administration does not give us some certainty on what they’re going to fund,” he said.

In the meantime, they’re having a difficult time getting the supplies they really need: Masks, disinfectant, wipes, toilet paper — so The Arc is mailing its stakeholders and members, asking those can spare supplies to drop them off at the organization’s office or headquarters building.

No one has tested positive thus far for the virus at their facilities, even though two of their group homes had to shelter in place for a few days as a precaution. A staff member worked at another nursing home where someone did test positive.

“That’s a concern—and that’s certainly a fear of staff who are thinking and looking around saying, well if something happens, what do I have to protect myself,” Malone said.

In addition to any masks and cleaning supplies, they’re also accepting games for their clients to play at group homes while their daytime activities have been suspended.

Donations can be dropped off at their headquarters—1401 McCormick Drive, Upper Marlboro. Donations can also be made online through their website.

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