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Disability Advocates Worry COVID-19 Cases At Intermediate Care Facilities Are Underreported

Published: Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - 1:53pm
Updated: Monday, February 22, 2021 - 12:28pm

We know people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are at high risk of contracting the coronavirus. But some disability advocates worry the number of cases is being underreported, especially in intermediate care facilities that provide nursing care to people with disabilities. 

While there are few ICFs in Arizona, disability advocates across the country are worried about the people who live in these types of care settings. 

Jon Meyers is with the Arc of Arizona. He says the Department of Developmental Disabilities and the Department of Health have no obligation to report anything beyond the numbers.

"And in fact, they would share that information and would help us to better advocate for individuals with disabilities because it would help us to understand where the greatest problems are taking place, whether they be outbreaks of the coronavirus or incidents of abuse or neglect right now."

Based on the available data, it’s unclear how many individuals living in ICFs have contracted the virus. Both the state and Maricopa County do not break out ICFs in their data. 

Another challenge are family visits: Like many long-term care facilities, licensed residential facilities for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities have had to restrict family visits. A spokesperson for the Department of Economic Security says virtual visits are happening; there are also drive-up and patio visits, but families are the eyes and ears in these settings. 

And without regular family visits or regular DES oversight, Meyers and other disability advocates worry.

"But we know from the case of Hacienda and from other cases that these things do happen and without eyes on the system, without eyes on the community, it's absolutely impossible for us to know when and where it's happening."

In late 2018, an incapacitated woman who lived at Hacienda Healthcare was allegedly raped by her caregiver and later gave birth to a baby.

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