Disability Rights advocates from the Center for Disability Rights (CDR) praise the leadership of Monroe County Executive Adam Bello who yesterday reached out to CDR about collaborating on ways to save the lives of disabled and older people in Monroe County nursing facilities. The need for action is clear to all with nursing home deaths conservatively estimated at 1 in every 5 New York State COVID-19 related deaths.
“While the Governor and others pass the buck and leave people to die,” Adam Bello and Monroe County are taking positive steps to ensure disabled and older people in county nursing facilities have the opportunity to live,” said Bruce Darling, CDR President and CEO. “County Executive Bello understand that the people living in these facilities deserve the same right to be safe as everyone else in the county. We look forward to working with his team to ensure that they can.”
Last week, CDR proposed that Monroe County give elderly and disabled residents of local nursing facilities an opportunity to leave the nursing facility in order to socially distance and protect themselves. CDR’s proposal (http://cdrnys.org/blog/press-releases/center-for-disability-rights-cdr-is-working-with-monroe-county-officials-to-save-the-lives-of-local-nursing-facility-residents/) would allow individuals in local nursing facilities to receive services at home during the pandemic leveraging other services available through the local Independent Living Centers. For individuals who do not have a home to go to, CDR has recommended utilizing FEMA non-congregate sheltering funds to allow these individuals and their caregivers to self-quarantine in a local hotel or college dormitory which is currently being done across the country to address the needs of individuals in homeless shelters.
Monroe County Deputy County Executive Corinda Crossdale will be meeting with CDR on this proposal. “We appreciate her work with us on this project,” said Darling. CDR has two decades of experience transitioning people out of nursing facilities and pioneered the practice in New York. The organization is aware of the enormous logistical and public safety challenges presented by transitions in the midst of this crisis, but feels that with the cooperation and support of the county it is possible to save lives.
“No one has dealt with anything like this before, but with the county as a partner it will be possible to get people into safer situations, “said Rebecca Payton CDR’s Director of Independent Living. “We need to take action because institutionalization of elderly and disabled people is dangerous in the best of times. The deaths of the eleven children in a New Jersey nursing facility in 2018 drove that home for me. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this issue visible to everyone.”
CDR is unique locally because the organization – and its sister organization the Regional Center for Independent Living – are disability-led organizations which means they are run by people with disabilities. “We are different,” said Bobbi Wallach CDR’s most recent Board Chair. “There aren’t many disability organizations where the Board Chair, herself, transitioned out a nursing facility.” Personal experience gives the board and staff a perspective on these issues that isn’t found within the medical community and among other disability organizations. Wallach continued, “I was a resident in a Monroe County nursing facility for 4 1/2 years. I know exactly what it’s like. It was claustrophobic with everyone living on top of each other, and everyone sharing staff. It’s exactly what we are being told to avoid… actually its worse! Our proposal won’t save everyone, but it may save someone. And maybe that person will one day become chair of our board. I am grateful to Mr. Bello and the county for moving forward with us.”
People interested in getting support with community reintegration services can contact CDR. These services are free.