Although Bucks County has moved from the shut-down “red” phase into the less-restrictive “yellow” phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan, the county’s Early Intervention and Intellectual Disability/Autism Services continue to be delivered remotely for the most part, except for people living in residential services.
Even after the county moves into the least-restrictive “green” phase, which is anticipated by the end of June, these services will continue to look different. Because of the increased risk that COVID-19 poses to those who utilize these programs, the county will be working with service providers to make sure services are rendered in the safest possible manner, in accordance with guidelines and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Asking families and individuals about their health and recent social contacts will be necessary, along with temperature-taking to prevent the spread of the virus. Social distancing and mask-wearing are crucial to safeguarding infant and toddlers in Early Intervention, individuals diagnosed with Intellectual Disability/Autism, families and all staff during the pandemic.
“We recognize the challenge that the pandemic has created,” said Mary Dunn, Bucks County’s Deputy Administrator for Developmental Programs, “but inherent in challenge is opportunity, and we are striving to ensure the best possible outcome for everyone while keeping people safe and healthy.”
In Early Intervention, tele-intervention and virtual evaluations continue as the primary method of service delivery. The E.I. program is considering ways to safely re-establish E.I. services in our communities and will work with families and providers to assess risk and evaluate specific needs.
Day programs serving people with Intellectual Disability/Autism are assessing their ability to safely render services and determine how many people they will be able to support on a given day. It is likely that individuals will attend on a part-time basis.
Bucks County Transport will, due to social distancing, restrict the number of people on its vehicles. Supports Coordinators are planning with individuals and families to determine their interest in returning to the day program and what will be needed should they not want to, or not be able to, return to the program.
Some, but not all, In-Home and Community Service (IHCS) providers have continued to render services throughout the pandemic. Efforts are underway to help ensure that all IHCS providers are safely providing service as they resume service delivery. An emphasis on mask-wearing, ensuring the health of the individual and family and social distancing is critical.
Finally, residential service providers are in the process of establishing updated visitation policies in an effort to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the home.