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NYDOH gets backlash from disability advocacy group

May 8, 2021

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Laura Tobia held up a photo of her two brothers, John and Billy, during a Zoom press conference Friday.

“I want to put a face with their names because they're real people,”  Tobia said.

Both of her brothers live in a group home, and are fully vaccinated.  Billy, however,  has a severe case of cerebral palsy and cognitive impairment, along with a very complex seizure disorder. 

Tobia said, due to the state’s delay on updating group home COVID-19 guidelines, Billy still isn't able to attend his day-hab program.

“There were months and months that Billy didn't even leave his group home. Months he sat there,” Tobia said.

Last week the Centers for Disease Control loosened outdoor and quarantine guidelines for fully vaccinated people allowing them to be outdoors without a mask, and only having to quarantine if feeling ill once exposed to the coronavirus.

However, the rules don’t currently apply to group homes or day-hab programs.

State Assemblymember Melissa “Missy” Miller, who represents part of Nassau County, said the state’s refusal to change guidelines for people with developmental disabilities is unfair and discriminatory.

“We really feel that our population of loved ones is just being completely disregarded,” said Miller, “When it comes to something needing to be cut, we’re the first community they think of, but we're the last population to be considered for new funding, for increases, or in this case, reopening phase with COVID.”

Miller said she’s contacted the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), and the health department numerous times, and is told that they are reviewing the protocols.

OPWDD told WXXI News that they understand the frustrations of the families and residents, and will continue to work with the state health authorities to ensure that this community is safely supported with the least restrictions possible.

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk.