Addressing Differential Impacts of Covid-19 in NYS: COVID-19 and disability services in Upstate New York: A survey of disability organizations
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AbstractIntroduction/purpose People with disability, who represent 1 in 4 adults in the U.S., experience a number of health disparities. These disparities have been exacerbated by the recent SARS-CoV-2 pandemic (COVID-19). Individuals with disability may rely on services from organizations for support, and anecdotal evidence suggests that these services have been impacted by COVID-19. The purpose of this study was to understand changes in service provision in a number of categories, organizational priorities related to COVID-19, and the information needs of disability organizations in New York State. We hypothesized that disability services would have decreased and that more services would be offered remotely during COVID-19 compared to prior to COVID-19. Methods We conducted a survey of disability organizations, contacting individuals at those organizations via phone, email, and listserv. The survey was developed by the research team and included questions about services offered prior to COVID-19 versus during COVID-19, as well as questions about additional precautions, health information, and organizational priorities. Disability services assessed in the survey included advocacy, caregiver, education, emergency/crisis services, health promotion programing, mental health, and recreational services, among others. Additional precautions included social distancing, use of masks, use of other PPE (face shields, gowns, gloves), reduced hours, reduced staff density, reduced group sizes, increased sanitizing of space/equipment, temperature screenings, other (please specify). The survey was conducted from August to December 2020. Descriptive analyses and paired sample t-test were conducted to compare service provision prior to and during COVID-19. Results Fifty-three respondent completed the survey from twenty-two counties in New York State. Organizations represented were of varied size and served a broad range of populations. The majority of organizations indicated that staff and clients had been impacted by COVID-19 positive cases. Overall, there significantly were fewer disability services offered during COVID-19 compared to prior to COVID-19. In addition, there was a significant change to remote disability services during COVID-19. Several disability services were no longer offered by organizations during COVID-19 that had been offered previously, while at the same time some services were initiated by organizations during the pandemic. Many respondents from disability organizations reported use of additional precautions. Disability organizations accessed information and COVID-19 related information from sources including National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD), New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Almost all of the respondents reported sending COVID-19 health and wellness resources to their consumers and/or stakeholders. Discussion/Conclusions As hypothesized, disability services decreased during COVID-19, and more services were offered remotely. The resulting impact of this change on health disparities experienced by people with disability is not yet clear, and these results represent a starting point for understanding that impact. In addition, the finding that some services were no longer offered, while others were initiated, warrants further investigation. Further research on this topic utilizing clear definitions and investigating the changes in specific services would be valuable, especially related to the effect on people with disability in rural areas and other instances where alternatives might not be available.
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