#WeAreEssential Week 4 – The Danger of Institutions

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This week we are refocusing our attention on the importance of Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). One of the most important services Centers for Independent Living, like Paraquad, provides is transition services for individuals who are living in nursing homes or other institutions but would like to live independently in the community. COVID-19 is running wild in nursing homes across the country, putting people with significant disabilities and the elderly (who are already at increased risk) in grave danger.

It is crucial for Congress to increase funding to HCBS so that people with disabilities and older adults are able to stay in their homes. At the best of times, Medicaid funded nursing homes and institutions are understaffed and generally unpleasant places to live, not to mention far more expensive than HCBS. During a global pandemic, the negatives of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are exacerbated; it is difficult to control illness when folks are living in small spaces and employees go from room to room assisting residents. Often people who do not need to be institutionalized become institutionalized due to illness. With increased funding to HCBS people with disabilities and older adults will have the opportunity to remain in their community and stay healthy.

This week we urge you to tell Congress:
• Disabled people in institutions are not disposable; Congress must act now to support our communities. #WeAreEssential
• Coronavirus numbers have increased dramatically in nursing homes and long-term care facilities – over 10,000 deaths. Congress needs to support these workers. #WeAreEssential
• My civil rights and my life will be at stake if I cannot stay in my home during the #coronavirus outbreak. Congress needs to support home and community-based services in coronavirus relief! #WeAreEssential

Sharing a Few Good Vibrations

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Paraquad is joining forces with other community leaders to make a regional impact on the health and safety of vulnerable populations through the COVID-19 Regional Response Team. Paraquad is ensuring the social and economic needs of people with disabilities are addressed.

“While our ability to provide direct services is impacted, our commitment to ensuring people with disabilities remain living in the community has never been stronger,” said Aimee Wehmeier, Paraquad’s President.

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Paraquad team member Kat taking groceries to participants.

Most of Paraquad’s board and staff have a disability so problem-solving and resourcefulness are second nature. It’s no surprise how quickly employees shifted to meet the emergent needs of the community. Staff are making well-check calls, purchasing and delivering groceries and supplies, making masks, providing information and resources and even providing emergency care.

Paraquad is using funding from the St. Louis Community Foundation and the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to meet the immediate needs of the community.

“At a time when we could be consumed with our own health and safety concerns, we are surrounded by people who want to help,” stated Dr. Kerri Morgan, Paraquad Board Chair.

To ease the loneliness of social distancing, Paraquad launched a Facebook group, the St. Louis-area COVID-19 Isolation Chamber to share stories, build connections, and provide relevant COVID-19 updates.

In addition, the Paraquad Health and Wellness Center is creating a series of short, adapted exercise videos to help members stay active at home. Check out the videos on the Paraquad Health and Wellness Center Facebook group.

Thank you for supporting Paraquad as we continue doing what we do best: empowering people with disabilities to remain living independently—especially through this COVID-19 crisis.

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#WeAreEssential Week 2 – Paid Family and Medical Leave

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This week, members of the disability community are adding Paid Family and Medical Leave to our list of asks (don’t stop talking about HCBS).

Families First Coronavirus Response Act included two weeks of paid sick leave for people who were diagnosed with COVID-19, needed to self-isolate to avoid becoming ill, or to take care of someone who was diagnosed or instructed to self-isolate. The Act also authorized 12 weeks of leave for parents who need to take care of children of all ages who lost their typical source of care.

However, many people feel that this didn’t meet their needs. Individuals who work for organizations with less than 50 employees or more than 500 employees, and many health care workers, are not eligible for leave. In addition to the limited eligibility, caregiver leave is only paid at 66% of an individual’s salary.

This week’s asks are targeted to Congress.

Tell Congress to:

  • Expand Paid leave for people with disabilities who need to self-isolate.
  • Ensure non-parent caregivers can take leave to care for their loved ones who have lost care.
  • Pay caregivers like everyone else!

The best way to reach your members of congress is via Twitter, Facebook, and Email, since everyone is working from home. You can find your members of congress here.

If you have an experience with paid leave (either good or bad) and COVID-19, reach out to the Public Policy and Advocacy by calling (314-289-4277) or emailing Sarah and she will help you craft a story to share across social media channels.

#WeAreEssential Week 1 – Home and Community Based Services

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Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) allow people with disabilities to live independently in the community. COVID-19 is negatively affecting people’s access to HCBS—if personal care attendants don’t come to work because they are sick, and if the person with a disability can’t find another attendant, he or she could be forced into a nursing home, disabled people could be forced into institutions and out of their homes.

#WeAreEssential HCBS Sample Tweets & Facebook Posts:

  • Disabled people in institutions are not disposable. Congress must act now to support our communities! #WeAreEssential
  • Coronavirus numbers have increased dramatically in nursing homes and long-term care facilities – more than 400 as of last week (a 200% increase). Congress needs to support these workers. #WeAreEssential
  • My civil rights and my life will be at stake if I cannot stay in my home during the #coronavirus outbreak. Congress needs to support home and community-based services in coronavirus relief! #WeAreEssential

You can use this language, along with a photo of you in your home or with your attendant to post on social media. Be sure to tag your members of Congress (they can be found here) and Paraquad so we can share your story!