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Disabilities Community Copes With Cancellations, Precautions

Just as students and parents are adjusting to being out of school for the next few weeks, people with disabilities around Massachusetts are coming to terms with the cancellation of day programs, community activities and new precautions at group homes.

Late Monday afternoon, the Arc of Massachusetts sent a notice to clients, families and supporters with information and resources from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Department of Developmental Services, MassHealth and more indicating that service providers are in "planning mode" as day programs close and put "additional pressures upon students, adults, families, and caregivers or direct support professionals in group settings."

Among the information included was a notice from DDS clarifying that all visitation is now prohibited to the DDS facilities at Hogan and Wrentham, and DDS state-operated group homes. "Your Area Office will remain the primary DDS point-of-contact for you regarding ongoing services and supports," DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder wrote. "Provider agencies have been directed to contact you immediately should they decide to close or alter service schedules. Area Offices will remain in contact with you to help mitigate any disruptions and ensure needed supports are addressed."

One such provider agency, Seven Hills Foundation, sent an email to clients and families Monday evening announcing that it had closed its ASPiRE! day programs and day care centers effective Tuesday, and that anyone who feels sick or has recently traveled to certain parts of the world should not visit any Seven Hills facilities or make contact with Seven Hills clients for two weeks.

"All of us at Seven Hills are monitoring the coronavirus situation hourly along with constantly updated guidelines outlined by the CDC. We will continue to update our own procedures as we receive regular notifications from the CDC as well as Departments of Health in Massachusetts and Rhode Island," President David Jordan wrote. "We ask for your cooperation and support over the next 5-6 weeks as COVID-19 will most likely escalate and then hopefully retreat."

The Arc said in its email Monday that anyone in need of urgent medical care should contact their primary care physician and anyone in need of services should contact their DDS local office if they are DDS-eligible and their local independent living center if not DDS-eligible.

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