NY state agency failed to guide disabled group homes through COVID, comptroller says

Gothamist, Michelle Bocanegra, April 6, 2023 

The New York state agency in charge of helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities left thousands of group homes to fend for themselves in the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an audit from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

DiNapoli and his auditors said the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities failed to provide steady oversight and guidance to the majority of group homes as the public health crisis began to unravel.

Though the agency issued emergency guidance to the eight state-run intermediate care facilities, close to 7,000 other sites — comprising nearly all of the homes under the agency’s purview — were excluded from its guidance, auditors said.

“Although we did not establish a causal relationship between OPWDD’s actions and COVID cases, we did find that these homes accounted for the majority of COVID-19 cases and deaths among OPWDD residential clients,” the audit reads.

The agency issued a contentious response to the report and defended its pandemic policies in a statement.

“During a global pandemic, OPWDD implemented best practices across facilities to minimize infections and satisfy state quarantine and isolation guidance, while keeping those residents in group homes safe and connected with loved ones,” said Erin Silk, a spokesperson for the agency, in a statement.

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