By NCDJ board member Amy Silverman, for ProPublica/Arizona Daily Star
Advocates for people with intellectual disabilities are concerned that people with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other such conditions will be denied access to lifesaving medical treatment as the COVID-19 outbreak spreads across the country.
As Silverman reports, several disability advocacy organizations filed complaints this week with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asking the federal government to clarify provisions of the disaster preparedness plans for the states of Washington and Alabama.
Some state plans — including Alabama’s — make clear that people with cognitive issues are a lower priority for lifesaving treatment. Alabama’s plan reads that “persons with severe mental retardation, advanced dementia or severe traumatic brain injury may be poor candidates for ventilator support.”
Officials in Hollywood, Florida have opened multiple criminal investigations into the deaths of 8 nursing home residents who died Wednesday morning from heat exhaustion during an ongoing power outage caused by Hurricane Irma. The New York Times is reporting that “More than three million customers in Florida still lacked power Wednesday, including roughly 160 nursing homes, according to the state’s tracking system.” Hollywood local paper The Sun-Sentinel is reporting 115 other senior residents at the home were evacuated from the overheated facility, but their relatives remain confused about their health status.
Anticipating, escaping and recovering from a natural disaster takes a heavy psychological toll on survivors. As they rebuild their lives economically they frequently need emotional support from their community. This article by Tony Plohetski, Andrea Ball and Melissa B. Taboada in the Austin American-Statesman (and reprinted inChicago Tribune) describes how Texas social workers and psychologists are treating patients with psychological trauma after the storm.
Emergency evacuation decisions are tougher for people with disabilities because they need to be sure they are fleeing to shelters that they can get in and out of and use. In the wake of Hurricane Irene, there are allegations today that the City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) fell short on promises that people being ordered out of “Zone A” would be evacuated to “accessible shelters.”
The city of Los Angeles discriminates against disabled people because it lacks specific plans to meet their needs in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency, a federal court ruled Friday, the first such decision in the country.
In Columbus alone, over fifty thousand people are living with special needs. Many of them function in society under normal circumstances quite well — but tornadoes, house fires, and evacuations are not normal circumstances.