This page, Coronavirus Update for Individuals and Families (June 24), is offered by
News

News Coronavirus Update for Individuals and Families (June 24)

Updated COVID-19 guidance and information for DDS individuals and families
6/24/2020
  • Department of Developmental Services
A graphic depicting a coronavirus

To: DDS Individuals and Families

From: Commissioner Jane F. Ryder

Date: June 24, 2020

Subject: DDS Day Program Reopening Efforts

 

As Massachusetts begins the cautious, multi-phased process of reopening, DDS is working with the COVID-19 Command Center and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to determine how to reopen DDS day programming.  The Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS) remains dedicated to health and safety as our system continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). 

 

DDS and the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers (ADDP) have created a Coordinating Council to develop a phased Reopening Plan, which will apply to Community-Based Day Supports (CBDS) and employment services. The Coordinating Council’s reopening plan will focus on six key areas including:

 

  • Establishing Infectious Disease Control standards and protocols to keep individuals, staff, and families safe;
  • Exploring alternative Service Delivery Models that will remain dynamic and flexible with our ongoing response to COVID-19;
  • Creating Billing and Contracting mechanisms to allow for flexibility in how providers deliver services and create options for individuals and families;
  • Reestablishing Transportation Services in the safest way possible, while supporting the system to accommodate phased reopening schedules that will evolve with ongoing COVID-19 responses;
  • Building Technological Capacities of programs using additional devices and tools to address communication challenges, provide training and technical support, enable remote services and increase family access to technology; and
  • Creating an effective Communication Strategy to keep providers, individuals, and families updated on policies, timelines, and protocols while also providing a forum for questions, ideas, and concerns. 

In addition to this work, provider agencies have begun to survey individuals and families on their needs to safely return to programming as well as assess their own ability to implement social distancing. Such surveys have also covered personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning, staff training, and other health and safety regulations necessary to reopen.  As such, re-opening efforts and timelines may look different in each program, given their ability to meet those needs and comply with the operational standards and guidelines being established. 

 

It is incredibly important that individuals and families remain connected with their local providers and DDS Area Office for updated information and instructions particular to their program.  General information and updates on these efforts will be made on the DDS website (www.mass.gov/DDS) and on our social media platforms including FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

 

The uncertainty of this time has been difficult for everyone, and challenges are expected to continue as we work together through this cautious and multi-phased process of reopening day services. Although the timeline is difficult to project, we anticipate this planning process to be finalized this month with possible reopening of some locations in early July.  The safety, health, and wellbeing of our individuals, families, and staff remains central to all of our planning efforts – and we anticipate these responses to evolve as we continue to monitor COVID-19 infection rates and progress made in mitigating the spread of this infectious disease. 

 

As always, I appreciate your ongoing patience and input as we continue to address the many impacts this public health crisis has had on our DDS community. I encourage you to remain connected with your Service Coordinators and Area Offices, who are available to support you and your loved ones through this extraordinary time.

 

Sincerely,

Jane F. Ryder

Commissioner

Coronavirus Update: May 22

This update is also available in: Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Khmer, Portuguese, Russian, and Vietnamese.

 

To: DDS Individuals and Families
From: Commissioner Jane F. Ryder
Date: 5/22/2020
Subject: Coronavirus Update for Individuals and Families

Dear DDS Community:
 

Much has happened in the weeks since my last message. I’d like to provide an update on the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) response to COVID-19 as of Friday, May 22.

As experts predicted, Massachusetts saw a surge of positive cases of COVID-19. We have experienced the surge across our programs and we have mourned the loss of those in our community — individuals we serve, coworkers, colleagues, friends, and family.

Now, after more than two months of staying home and tough protective measures, such as restricting all visitation, we are beginning to flatten the curve. The number of new positive cases identified each day are starting to decrease as we continue to socially distance and increase our access and efforts around testing. By engaging in distancing and protective measures, together we have saved lives. We must continue to remain vigilant as we move toward a new normal.

I have been so impressed with your resourcefulness and resilience in this uncertain time.  I have heard wonderful stories of families finding new ways to connect remotely and staff going above and beyond during this public health crisis.  We have seen big and small acts of creativity, commitment, and compassion in our community every day. 

As Massachusetts and the nation look toward a slow and cautious reopening, our priority at DDS is the health and safety of the individuals we serve and our staff. We will continue to focus on three key factors to keep people safe: infectious disease precautions, personal protective equipment (PPE), and testing.

I know there is anxiety and many questions around re-opening.  Visitation, day and employment programs, and transportation are at the front of our minds.  As we look to restart operations, we are committed to making this process as smooth and safe as possible. This means making decisions based on data and following the latest advice from public health experts. While we don’t have all the answers today, we look forward to hearing your ideas and feedback.

DDS is actively working with public health experts on safe visitation protocols that will keep you, your loved one, and their caregivers safe.  We will announce any updates to the current visitation protocol as soon as we are able.

Additionally, we are working with our provider community to plan the path forward for day programs and transportation services.  We will continue to communicate with you as plans develop.   

In the meantime, we want to hear your ideas. Let us know the biggest ways in which all this is impacting you and what you’d like to see from us. As we work through the rest of this pandemic — as always — please feel free to get in touch and give us feedback through our website or share ideas with your Service Coordinator. 

Your Area Office is here to support you and will remain in contact with you to ensure your loved one is receiving services and both your needs are addressed.

We will update the DDS website and social media as information becomes available.

Please see below for further updates about the DDS response to COVID-19.

Thank you,
 

Jane F. Ryder
Commissioner
Department of Developmental Services

 __________________________________________

Family Support
DDS-funded Family Support Centers continue to provide assistance and support to families through this crisis and are here for emergency support and information about local resources. Please contact your DDS Area Office if you need help connecting with your local Family Support Center.

 

Visitation
To keep your loved ones and their caregivers safe and healthy, in-person visitation to group homes and residential facilities remains prohibited, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end-of-life. DDS is actively working with public health experts on safe visitation protocols to help you see your loved ones in a way that keeps you, your loved ones, and their caregivers safe.  We will announce any updates to the current visitation protocol as soon as we are able.

 

Guidance for Residential Programs and Facilities

DDS has been focused on providing clear guidance to support residential programs and facilities in order to best care for the individuals we serve. Beyond the guidance document for residential programs (last updated April 13), DDS has also organized for infectious disease consultation services to be available. The staff at the Hogan Regional Center and Wrentham Developmental Center, our state-operated group homes, and provider-operated group homes continue to consult with infectious disease specialists to provide care and ensure operational protocols meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) guidelines and standards.

 

Access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
We are working in collaboration with DPH and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to continue to procure and provide access to PPE and cleaning supplies, and DDS programs have an adequate supply to meet needs. DDS state-operated homes and facilities submit lists of their current supplies and their needs semiweekly, while DDS providers may request emergency PPE through MEMA.

 

Testing
We are continuing to provide testing to residents and staff in DDS state-operated or provider-operated residential programs through a partnership with Fallon Ambulance and MassHealth. As of May 20, Fallon has visited over 1,300 DDS sites and tested over 16,000 individuals and staff. DDS and its provider agencies have also organized over 30 testing pop-ups across the state to provide greater access to testing for those who work most closely and do the most for the individuals we serve.  So far, we have tested over 4,500 staff at these pop-up sites. Community Autism Resources has also created social stories and checklists (both visual and audio resources available on our website) to help individuals served by DDS prepare for swab testing or a mobile testing visit.


DDS Offices
Regional and Area Offices remain closed to the public for visitation.  Please contact your Area Office by phone or email regarding services and supports, and our staff will return your message.

 

Health
If you or anyone in your family has symptoms of illness (fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) or potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus, please take these steps:

  • Check your symptoms online: buoy.com/mass.
  • Contact your primary care physician and follow their guidance.
  • Contact the Massachusetts DPH epidemiology line: (617) 983-6800.

For the latest information on COVID-19, please call 2-1-1 or visit: mass.gov/covid19

 

Disabled Persons Protection Committee (DPPC)
To report suspicion of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse or neglect of a person with a disability, contact the DPPC 24-hour hotline:

 

Supportive Technology Stories
DDS would like to feature stories of success with supportive technology so others may see the uses and benefits of these tools. If you've had success using supportive tech, such as tablets, voice assistants, telemedicine, or remote services, let us know. Get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @DDSmass to share your story.

Coronavirus Update: April 14

Dear DDS Community:


I’d like to provide an update on the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) response to COVID-19 as of Tuesday, April 14.


As we deal with this unprecedented crisis, we are working tirelessly to support all the individuals and families in the DDS community. The anxiety, uncertainty, and seriousness of this virus can seem overwhelming. In this rapidly evolving public health crisis, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Public Health update their guidance, we are adjusting our guidance to meet or exceed their standards. Our Service Coordinators are available and will continue to reach out. We are working with our Family Support Centers to assist families in providing the resources you need to keep your loved ones safe. We are supporting our direct care staff, the great unsung heroes who continue to go above and beyond in making sure your loved ones – your sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters – remain safe.


We expect the next few weeks will be challenging for all of us. I know that each of you are feeling the impact of COVID-19 on all aspects of your life, including your job, family, and friends. DDS is committed to working with you, and to supporting you and your loved ones during this trying time.


Your Area Office is the primary DDS point-of-contact for you regarding ongoing services and supports and will remain in contact with you to help mitigate any disruptions and ensure needs are addressed.


We will continue to update the DDS COVID-19 Resources and Support website and social media as information becomes available. Please contact your Area Office with any immediate questions or for assistance.

Please see below for further updates about the DDS response to COVID-19.

Thank you,
Jane F. Ryder

 

Mobile Testing
Mobile testing is now available to residents and staff in DDS state-operated or provider-operated residential programs through a partnership with Fallon Ambulance and MassHealth. Mobile testing began this past weekend, starting with our facilities at Hogan and Wrentham and homes where an individual is showing symptoms or a resident or staff has a confirmed case of COVID-19.


Updated DDS Residential Program Guidance
DDS has released updated guidance for residential programs. This guidance follows the latest recommendations from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and includes important policy and protocol updates regarding:

 

  • What COVID-19 is and how it spreads.
  • Restrictions on Visitors.
  • Screening Staff.
  • Face Mask Protocols.
  • Mobile Testing.
  • Reporting Positive Cases to DDS.
  • On-Site Care.
  • Moving Residents to an Alternative Site.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Cleaning and Deep Cleaning.


For more information, please see the full updated guidance here:
https://www.mass.gov/doc/dds-residential-program-guidance-dds-updated-april-13/download


Face Masks
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, staff are now required to wear facemasks, including cloth face coverings if approved-PPE is not available. If your loved one has a positive case of COVID-19, they may be asked to wear a facemask if they can do so with without putting them at risk, such as trouble breathing.


COVID-19 Recovery Centers
In an effort to best protect individuals served by DDS and our direct care staff, we are opening COVID-19 recovery and isolation centers at three of our DDS facilities. These sites will be made available to DDS individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and are unable to safely quarantine at home. Many of our providers are also developing emergency alternative residential sites and will communicate with you in advance, should this be recommended for your loved one.


Health
If you or anyone in your family has symptoms of illness (fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) or potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus, please take these steps:

  • Check your symptoms online: buoy.com/mass.
  • Contact your primary care physician and follow their guidance.
  • Contact the Massachusetts DPH epidemiology line: (617) 983-6800.

For the latest information on COVID-19, please call 2-1-1 or visit: mass.gov/covid19


Disabled Persons Protection Committee (DPPC)
To report suspicion of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse or neglect of a person with a disability, contact the DPPC 24-hour hotline:

 

Family Support
DDS-funded Family Support Centers are here to support you through this crisis and can be a source for emergency support and information about local resources. Please contact your DDS Area Office if you need help connecting with your local Family Support Center.

 

Supportive Technology Stories
DDS would like to feature stories of success with supportive technology so others may see the uses and benefits of these tools. If you've had success using supportive tech, such as tablets, voice assistants, telemedicine, or remote services, let us know. Get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @DDSmass to share your story.

Coronavirus Update: March 25

Dear DDS Community:

I’d like to provide an update on the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) response to COVID-19 as of Wednesday, March 25.

 

State of Emergency

The Governor has announced important updates to the State of Emergency including:

  • All day programs must cease to provide services in congregate settings, including Community Based Day Support, Employment Services, Day Habilitation, and Adult Day Health.
  • Stay-at-Home Advisory issued for residents who are not providing essential services.
  • Nonessential businesses must close their physical workspaces and facilities to customers, workers, and the public. Essential businesses include grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and restaurants offering take-out or delivery.
  • Gatherings are limited to 10 people, a reduction from the previous 25-person limit.
  • Schools and child care programs must remain closed until May 4.
  • Exempt Emergency Child Care programs are being made available to provide emergency, back-up, drop-in child care for emergency workers, including essential human service and health care staff.

 

Essential Services for your Family Member

Group home and facility-based residential services are essential and the staff who support your family members in those settings are performing essential work.  Medical and personal care are also essential services. Providers of mental and behavioral health care, personal care attendants, home health aides, and home care workers are performing essential work. Some of these services may be provided remotely.

 

Visitation

To protect the health and safety of your loved ones, all in-person visitation to group homes and residential facilities is now prohibited, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation. We encourage families to stay in contact with their loved ones using technology, including phone and video calls. DDS and provider staff can help facilitate. 

Mitigating the Risk of Spreading COVID-19

Staff, vendors, and individuals with any of the conditions below are restricted from entering areas of care:

In accordance with the DPH Stay-at-Home Advisory, we are suspending short visits with family into the community or to the family home. If you wish to take your family member home with you, they must remain with you for the duration of this public health emergency.

 

Remote Services

DDS programs, including Day Programs and Family Support Centers, are encouraged to continue offering services and supports remotely. If you do not have the technology available, DDS can help you access it. Please contact your Area Office to learn more. 

 

Individual Support Plan

We are advising our employees that regular business, such as ISP meetings, may continue to be conducted remotely using conference calls and other group communication technology, if individuals, guardians, and staff can participate. In cases where it is not possible to conduct a scheduled ISP remotely, DDS will be seeking to extend state and federal time requirements related to service planning. 

 

Guidance for Programs

The Executive Office for Health and Human Services (EHS) has provided guidance on programs including protocols for when to quarantine and use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).   

Find all current guidance documents here:

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-guidance-and-recommendations

Please note that the Residential and Congregate Care Program guidance (updated March 20) applies to all DDS state and provider-operated programs. 

The website and guidance above and will continue to be updated, so please review regularly.

 

Health

If you or anyone in your family has symptoms of illness (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) or potential exposure to COVID-19, please take these steps:

  • Contact your primary care physician and follow their guidance.
  • Contact the Massachusetts DPH epidemiology line: (617) 983-6800.

For the latest information on COVID-19, please call 2-1-1 or visit: mass.gov/covid19

 

Family Support

DDS-funded Family Support Centers are here to support you through this crisis and can be a source for emergency support and information about local resources. Please contact your DDS Area Office if you need help connecting with your local Family Support Center. 

 

Disabled Persons Protection Committee (DPPC)

To report suspicion of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse or neglect of a person with a disability, contact the DPPC 24-hour hotline:

  • 1-800-426-9009
  • 1-888-822-0350 TTY

 

Communication

Your Area Office will remain the primary DDS point-of-contact for you regarding ongoing services and supports. Provider agencies have been directed to contact you immediately should they close or alter service schedules. Area Offices will remain in contact with you to help mitigate any disruptions and ensure needed supports are addressed.  

We will continue to update the DDS COVID-19 Resources and Support website and social media as information becomes available. Please contact your Area Office with any immediate questions or for assistance. 

 

Thank you,

Jane F. Ryder

Coronavirus Update: March 16

Dear DDS Community:

I’d like to provide an update on the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) response to COVID-19 as of the morning of Monday, March 16.

On Sunday, the Governor announced important updates to the State of Emergency including:

  • All visitation to nursing homes is now prohibited
  • Gatherings of over 25 individuals are prohibited
  • K-12 schools are closed from March 17-April 6, 2020
  • Non-emergency state employees are directed not report to work on Monday and Tuesday March 17-18
  • Restaurants will be closed for dining, limited to take out and delivery
  • Grocery stores and pharmacies may stay open
  • Hospitals must cancel non-essential elective procedures starting Wednesday, March 18

 

Health

If you or anyone in your family has symptoms of illness (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) or potential exposure to COVID-19, please take these steps:

  • Contact your primary care physician and follow their guidance
  • Contact the Massachusetts DPH epidemiology line: (617) 983-6800

For the latest information from DPH on COVID-19, please visit: mass.gov/covid19

 

Visitation

To protect the health and safety of your loved ones, all visitation is now prohibited to nursing homes, DDS facilities at Hogan and Wrentham, and DDS State Operated group homes. 

 

Guidance for Programs

The Executive Office for Health and Human Services (EHS) has provided guidance to the field. 

Find all current guidance documents here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-guidance-and-recommendations

This site and these guidance documents will continue to be updated, so please review regularly.

 

Conducting Business Remotely

We are advising our employees that all regular internal business may continue to be conducted remotely using conference calls, WebEx, and other group communication tools.  

 

Communication

Your Area Office will remain the primary DDS point-of-contact for you regarding ongoing services and supports.  Provider agencies have been directed to contact you immediately should they decide to close or alter service schedules.  Area Offices will remain in contact with you to help mitigate any disruptions and ensure needed supports are addressed.  

 

The situation remains fluid so we will continue to update the DDS website and social media as information becomes available.  Please contact your Area Office with any immediate questions or for assistance. 

 

Thank you,

Jane F. Ryder

Coronavirus Update: March 13

Dear DDS Community:

 

I’d like to provide an update on the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) response to COVID-19.  As you know, Governor Baker has declared a State of Emergency and DDS is taking all necessary precautions and actions to protect your loved ones – their health and safety is our top priority. 

The Central, Regional, and Area Offices of DDS will remain open; however, we are actively making operational changes to respond to this public health emergency.

 

Health

If you or anyone in your family has symptoms of illness (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) or potential exposure to COVID-19, please take these steps:

  • Contact the primary care physician and follow their guidance
  • Contact the Massachusetts DPH epidemiology line: (617) 983-6800
  • Contact your DDS Area Office

For the latest information from DPH on COVID-19, please visit: mass.gov/covid19

 

Communication

Your Area Office will remain the primary DDS point-of-contact for you regarding ongoing services and supports.  Provider agencies have been directed to contact you immediately should they decide to close or alter service schedules.  Area Offices will remain in contact with you to help mitigate any disruptions and ensure needed supports are addressed.  

 

Meetings and Events

While DDS offices remain open, we are encouraging individuals and families not to visit offices until further notice.  All in-person meetings, site visits, and work-related travel for state employees has been discontinued until further notice.  We are advising our employees that all regular internal business, such as ISP meetings and provider contract meetings, may continue to be conducted remotely using conference calls, WebEx and other group communication tools.  

 

Guidance for Group Homes, Facilities, and Day Programs

The Executive Office for Health and Human Services (EOHHS) has provided guidance to the field.  Please find current EOHHS guidance for the type of programming you or your loved one receives: 

Find all guidance here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-guidance-and-recommendations

This DPH site and these guidance documents will continue to be updated, so please review regularly.

 

Nursing Homes and DDS State-Operated Facilities

Please be aware that DPH has ordered restrictions for visitation of all nursing homes and this order has been extended to DDS facilities at Hogan and Wrentham and State Operated group homes.  Here are links to view those policies and procedures:

The situation remains fluid so we will continue to update the DDS website and our social media channels as information becomes available.  Please call your Area Office with any immediate questions or for assistance. 

 

Thank you,

Jane F. Ryder

Department of Developmental Services  

The Department of Developmental Services provides supports for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities including Autism Spectrum Disorder to enhance opportunities to become fully engaged members of their community.
Image credits:  Coronavirus Graphic (Pete Linforth from Pixabay)
Feedback