BDD clients free of COVID

$60K in gifts made to provider staffs

Rick Simmons, left, CEO of Kaleidoscope Project Inc., receives a $10,000 grant from county BDD superintendent Bill Devon. The money is part of $60,000 released by the board to provide incentive rewards to providers for their efforts during the COVID-19 sheltering order. Behind them are boxes of N95 masks, face shields, suits, hand sanitizer and other PPE materials that the county board has been supplying to providers, clients and families. (Submitted photo)

LISBON — So far there are no known COVID-19 cases among Columbiana County’s 804 clients with developmental disabilities, according to Bill Devon.

“We have held to zero cases, which is amazing,” said Devon, superintendent of the county Board of Developmental Disabilities (CCBDD). “We’ve been very fortunate to have no positive tests. The providers have taken such good care of our clients.”

The CCBDD has released $60,000 in grants to the 29 service providers in Columbiana County as a way of saying thank you to their staffs, especially the direct support providers (DSPs) who operate the small group residential facilities which are staffed 24 hours a day.

None of the county’s 13 sheltered workshops — which provide social, recreational and educational outlets — have been open during the stay at home period. No outings to parks, events or theaters have been possible either, putting extra pressure on these professionals to come up with constructive ways to keep clients occupied, Devon said.

Providers submitted grant applications giving examples of how their staffs have coped and how they would use the money. These grants cannot be paid in cash or bonuses to provider staff, but can be incentives such as food, T-shirts, or store or restaurant gift cards, Devon said.

Among grant recipients is Kaleidoscope Project Inc., a provider with 65 employees working out of New Waterford. The agency operates a sheltered workshop and seven residential homes housing 26 adult clients in Columbiana County.

Rick Simmons of Kaleidoscope said the home managers, who staff each residence in eight-hour shifts, have been challenged to keep clients engaged in craft projects, games, educational activities and other programs.

“A lot of staff call-offs was one of the fears we had when this thing started, but that has not happened,” he said. “The clients appreciate what staff has done, and mostly have put up with the situation. The end result is that our staff and clients have gotten much closer.”

Devon said the board recognizes the pressures of staying home on both staff and clients, and the potential for frustration to result in issues. “Things have been great medically, and we just hope the behavioral can be maintained,” he said.

Devon said with DSP staff busy in the homes supervising and caring for individuals, CCBDD case managers – called service and support administrators (SSAs) — have stepped in to deliver groceries and prescriptions, coordinate healthcare appointments, and perform other personal care tasks.

Grants are only one way that the CCBDD has tried to help clients, their families and providers during the pandemic.

The SSAs have stepped up their services to families who have clients residing at home.

Josh Martin, assistant superintendent, said, “We established a 24-hour hotline to help individuals with needs who can’t get out, and we make two or three ‘well checks’ each week on all clients not in group homes.”

CCBDD has launched programs to help providers recruit, hire, share, and train staff, including partnering with agencies in adjacent counties. It developed a local community resources list with information about food banks, medical services, transportation services, and other resources related to COVID response, and promotes resources through social media, Martin said.

“We are using local ‘Supported Living’ dollars to support individuals that do not have a waiver or have a waiver with limited funding, whose primary caregiver is a first responder that must work through this pandemic,” he said.

Simmons thanked the board for the $10,000 grant to Kaleidoscope, and thanked the CCBDD administration and SSA teams for their quick response to calls for personal protective equipment and other assistance during the pandemic sheltering situation.

“CCBDD has once again stepped up to assist Threshold when the organization has been most vulnerable,” said Chris Page, executive director of Threshold Residential Services, the county’s largest provider. “The grant funding from CCBDD has enabled us to purchase items to thank our direct care professionals on the front line, and to purchase ample personal protective equipment to keep our employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.”


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