The number of COVID deaths within North Dakota continues to rise. Hospitals are at capacity. Yet, we hear very little about individuals with disabilities and the state’s plan to address the challenges that people with disabilities face. The North Dakota Disability Advocacy Consortium (NDDAC) seeks to guide medical and human services providers in ensuring civil rights protections and providing the most appropriate services to individuals with disabilities, who deserve and require appropriate consideration for their unique needs.
NDDAC asks state leaders and health care providers to adopt and implement these protocols focusing on best practices:
1. Allow caregivers to remain with an individual with a disability during emergency room or hospital stays to assist with functioning, communication, positive behavior supports, decision-making, and health monitoring.
2. Avoid judgments about quality of life. Consider a broader scope of understanding and treatment triage and rationing health care.
3. Adhere to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) guidance, based on federal laws, that seeks to secure individuals’ civil rights during this public health emergency.
4. Train North Dakota providers to support individuals with disabilities to maintain their “home” after a hospital stay, removing the prospects of assigning them to a more restrictive level of care. Appropriate team planning should work to ensure informed decision-making on the part of the individual and their guardian.
5. Enforce CDC public health recommendations, with respect, allowances, and accommodations for the specific needs of individuals with disabilities that reduce the spread of COVID-19 among all populations.
The State and health care providers have a moral obligation to recognize individuals with disabilities as a significant part of our vulnerable population and secure protections to stop the spread of COVID-19 among this population.