ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — U.S. and state lawmakers are calling for investigations into COVID-19 deaths in group homes for people with developmental disabilities.
Legislators are questioning a policy that’s reminiscent of Governor Cuomo’s March 15 executive order to send COVID-19 patients in hospitals back into nursing homes.
On April 10, 2020, the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) sent out an advisory to group home operators to expedite the return of asymptomatic residents who were in the hospital with COVID-19 back into the group homes.
Part of the advisory reads: “No individual shall be denied re-admission or admission to a Certified Residential Facility based solely on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”
Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and other U.S. Representatives sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice requesting an investigation into whether this directive violates the civil rights of group home residents in New York State.
Similar calls are coming from state Senate Republicans, who requested information from OPWDD at the end of February about the April 10 directive, including relevant correspondence had with the Governor’s administration. Lawmakers say the response they received from OPWDD was insufficient.
Republican senators Anthony Palumbo, Jim Tedisco, and others sent a letter to the Senate Investigations Committee Chair, Senator James Skoufis, calling on him to launch a probe into OPWDD’s directives and policies during the pandemic.
Skoufis, a Democrat, said that since the issue was brought to his attention, he has been discussing next steps with his colleagues.
“We need to ensure that our group homes are safe, OPWDD is transparent with families and the legislature,” Skoufis said in a statement, “and, if anything was done improperly, individuals are held accountable.”
In their response letter to the senate, OPWDD says their directive aligned with Department of Health and CDC guidance.