Information on the Coronavirus and Persons with Developmental Disabilities

We have established this new page on our website as a resource for families seeking information about the coronavirus and how to advocate for their their loved ones in the care of the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).

We will be updating the page periodically.

From our August 27, 2020 Blog Post

Baker administration finally requiring DDS providers to test all staff for COVID-19

In the wake of months of criticism for failing to make testing of staff in group homes mandatory, the Baker administration has issued a directive that requires “baseline testing” and potentially biweekly retesting of all staff in the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) system for COVID-19.

The baseline testing must be done by September 15. It’s not clear whether biweekly retesting, or “surveillance testing,” of staff throughout the system will actually go into effect. Under the directive, none of the state’s five Emergency Medical Services (EMS) regions currently meets a threshold of positive cases among residents that would trigger the ongoing surveillance testing requirement.

The directive from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) defines staff as including all direct-care personnel and physicians, nurses, therapists, technicians, and all others who can potentially transmit the virus to residents.

The directive is dated August 14, just a few days after COFAR reported that even the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida had begun requiring testing of staff in group homes in that state.

Read more on our blogsite here.

General information about the coronavirus and DDS

If our loved ones are lucky enough to have close relationships (and unfortunately some do not), these are existential relationships and should be taken as seriously by DDS, providers, and staff as are all other protections.

Information about positive tests

If a resident of a DDS facility tests positive, or if a resident is exposed to the coronavirus and exhibits signs of fever or respiratory infection symptoms, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat, we recommend that family members and guardians be informed immediately.

Pursuant to Massachusetts General Law, c. 19B, s. 1:

DDS shall take cognizance of all matters affecting the welfare of the persons with an intellectual disability or persons with a developmental disability.

A primary function of DDS is to make sure its residents are protected, whether in a state-operated group home, a corporate-operated group home or an Intermediate Care Facility (ICF).

DDS regulations (115 CMR s. 9) defines a “serious risk of harm” as “a significant exposure to serious physical or serious emotional injury.”

If your loved one tests positive for, or is exposed to the coronavirus, you, as a guardian, have a right to know about it.

Keeping residential facilities clean

We are recommending that DDS make every effort to ensure that:

  1. All residential facilities are relentlessly cleaned;
  1. All staff are repeatedly reminded about hand washing;
  1. Windows are kept open, weather permitting, so that the group home residents and staff are breathing fresh air;
  1. Residents are taken outside into the fresh air and sunshine, weather permitting.

Information from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS)

The following is a link to information provided about COVID-19 on the DDS website:  https://www.mass.gov/news/coronavirus-update-for-individuals-and-families

In addition, the following is a link to additional information about the virus from the Department of Public Health: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-guidance-and-directives#for-congregate-care-programs-

We have raised concerns that the information and guidance available from DDS and other state agencies is unclear and inconsistent. We are urging DDS to develop a single, comprehensive plan for all contingencies involving residents of all types of facilities in the DDS system.

You can also send questions or concerns to us by emailing either Colleen Lutkevich at collen.lutkevich@cofar.org, Thomas J. Frain, Esq. at tjf@frainlaw.com, or David Kassel at davidskassel@gmail.com. We will forward your concerns to DDS.