AABR, based in New York, cares for residents with profound developmental disabilities. Amidst the Coronavirus outbreak, they are short on funds, resources, and support.
The Coronavirus outbreak only makes things worse for those who are already underserviced by our public institutions. While the whole world grapples with this public health crisis, some of us are being left behind. The disabled community, in particular, is being overlooked. A New York non-profit dedicated to helping the developmentally disabled is thus struggling during this crisis. AABR, established in, is one of the largest organizations serving the disabled community in the state. They have about 23 group homes that house an estimated 200 people. Despite 11 people in their programs being diagnosed with COVID-19, they are yet to receive adequate support in getting their residents tested and acquiring protective equipment, CNN reports.
The non-profit is based in the New York City borough of Queens. In addition to housing 200 hundred residents, they also run several day programs which include job training and schooling. Sadly, however, they have been forced to shut down their day programs after one person tested positive for the deadly Coronavirus. They are yet to shutter their group homes as the residents live there. Those who live in their homes have been diagnosed with profound developmental disabilities and require assistance with daily activities, such as dressing, eating, and bathing. They would not be able to survive if placed under self-isolation.
As some residents are non-verbal, the staff at AARB have to look for signs of the virus. At present, they are relying on daily temperature checks to evaluate the residents' health conditions. Their temperatures are checked twice every single day. While some of these residents are especially at risk, they have been made to leave hospitals simply because their symptoms were not severe enough. Libby Traynor, the executive director of AABR, explained, "We've taken individuals to hospitals where they were turned away because they were not sick enough." As our public healthcare system is currently overburdened by the number of patients who may potentially have Coronavirus, this is not surprising, but it does mean these residents' lives are stake.
On Friday, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a directive to medical providers. It stated, "It is critical that laboratory testing is prioritized for hospitalized patients. There is no reason to test asymptomatic persons or mild-to-moderately ill persons who are not hospitalized." That does not make much sense to Traynor, who is responsible for a large congregant population. While she cannot look to the healthcare system for help, she must rely on the stock of protective gear AABR has procured. Unfortunately, that too is dwindling. Their supply of gear such as gloves, gowns, and masks is running short and a new $150,000 order of supplies will not arrive until next week. This is an order they cannot afford. Traynor stated, "We are a nonprofit, we don't have that kind of money. We have no margin." When the non-profit appealed to local authorities, their request to "bridge the gap" was denied.
The lowest point in their fight to make sure their residents were safe came when the New York City Office of Emergency Management told reportedly AABR that they were "below the priority level to receive PPE." Without the funds to get through this outbreak, the non-profit is at a loss about how to survive the next few weeks. "We're really struggling," Traynor said. "It keeps getting direr by the minute." Typically, AABR's day programs help cover the expenses of their group homes. As those have been shut down indefinitely, there is no plan of action moving forward. The organization may be bankrupt by the end of this week. If you would like to support AABR during this challenging time, please visit their COVID-19 donation page. Now especially is the time to protect those who have been overlooked by our public institutions.