Adult Day Health Care, which provides medical services and socialization to disabled adults of all ages, will be allowed to reopen in New York state after a year-long closure. The New York State Department of Health issued guidance Thursday evening allowing Adult Day Health Care, or ADHC, to resume in-person services as soon as April 1.
“ADHC programs considering reopening will be expected to follow strict standards for infection control for staff and registrants,” the state DOH guidance reads. “In order to evaluate effectiveness of infection control standards and practices, the Department will use a phased approach to reopening. The phased reopening approach will provide the necessary time for ADHC programs to train staff, obtain authorizations from managed care or community physician for such services, and communicate to registrants and families, vendors, and transportation providers.”
The announcement comes after a push to reopen ADHC programs by the Adult Day Health Care Council, which represents 115 ADHC programs across the state. WBFO reported on that effort last week.
“We’ve worked really hard over the past year to get to this point,” said Anne Hill, executive director of the Adult Day Health Care Council, in an interview with WBFO on Friday. “We're very pleased that the state, after a whole year of closure, has finally given permission to reopen Adult Day Health Care programs.”
It appears the state DOH has been preparing to reopen ADHC programs for at least several weeks. The guidance, published the evening of March 25, mentions ADHC programs can begin submitting reopening plans as soon as March 15.
Hill said the state DOH likely crafted the guidance earlier this month but was awaiting approval from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
“Sometimes there's a gap between those things happening,” she said. “It's just a process of how our state works. Takes a long time to get things done.”
Still, Thursday’s announcement was a surprise to the ADHC Council. Hill said the group had no advanced notice that the state DOH would be releasing reopening guidance.
The ADHC Council has been speaking out for months on the need to reopen ADHC programs, saying the closure had been detrimental to the state’s approximately 8,000 ADHC participants and their family caregivers. ADHC programs report their participants have experienced increased hospitalizations, emergency room visits and nursing home placements over the last year.
Charlotte Kregg of Lackwanna told WBFO her disabled 42-year-old son, Chris Williams, who attends Schofield Adult Day Care in Buffalo, has lost muscle mass and seen his speech worsen without the program.
“His day consists of sitting in a chair,” Kregg said.
The ADHC Council pointed to the fact the state allowed adult day programs for the developmentally disabled, which mostly provide socialization but not medical care, to reopen back in July.
It’s possible the state DOH did not allow ADHC programs to reopen earlier due to the fact about 70% of ADHC programs are located on the campus of a nursing home. Nursing homes have been the epicenter for COVID-19 in New York, with over 15,000 resident deaths and a federal probe into Cuomo’s handling of them.
A state DOH spokesperson made no mention of nursing homes when asked last week why ADHC programs had not yet been allowed to reopen.
Hill said concern for nursing homes was indeed a factor in the state’s hesitancy, but said ADHC programs don’t directly share space or staff with nursing homes.
“In fact, the Adult Day Health Care program space is regulated and certified separately from the nursing home,” she said. “So while I understand where the state was coming from, as far as [ADHC] population in proximity to the nursing home, there are barriers.”
ADHC programs located on a nursing home campus will not be allowed to reopen until April 15, and can only reopen if their nursing home has no active COVID-19 cases. ADHC participants are also not allowed to engage in activities with nursing homes residents, according to the guidance.
In addition to health screenings, wearing masks and maintaining six feet of distance, ADHC programs will also be required to help participants get a COVID-19 vaccine, if they would like one. It must also keep a record of which participants are vaccinated and which ones are not.
Hill said the ADHC Council is in favor of that requirement, as it had previously said it could help with the vaccination effort in its argument for reopening.
“That's exactly what Adult Day Health Care programs do, is that we coordinate health care,” she said.
Although the state has reimbursed ADHC programs for providing telehealth services, the year-long closure has hurt ADHC programs financially. Hill said programs have had to lay off staff, and at least 12 have closed permanently.
“There could be even more [closings] coming, unfortunately,” she added.
Still, Hill said the remaining ADHC programs are eager to bring back participants.
“I have heard from many, many participants from across the state saying they felt that the state forgot about them,” she said. “And I would just like to send a message to these participants that we did not forget about you, that we fought really hard for you, and we can't wait to welcome you back to the program.”