The global threat of COVID-19 has touched every single one of us. We now know that this disease is impacting some populations more than others and that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are one of these populations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone with an intellectual disability, moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy or brain disorder may be more susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19. Many people with I/DD have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, that make them more likely to have COVID-19 complications. And at Evergreen, many of the people we serve are well into their senior years, which puts them at grave risk if they contract COVID-19.
Unfortunately, that’s the reality of our situation, and that’s why Evergreen still has no plans to lift our stay-at-home restrictions for our homes and people served. While many of the states where we provide services are opening up, Evergreen is preparing to be even more vigilant. Last week, COVID-19 cases had been reported almost solely in our Louisiana divisions, but as the stay-at-home mandates have been lifted, we are starting to see COVID-19 cases in Evergreen divisions in other states.
Evergreen has implemented stringent hospital discharge protocols in order to keep COVID-19 from spreading to other residents in a home. Many providers have adopted similar protocols for COVID-19 discharges, but Evergreen has taken it a step further to include discharges for all illnesses or conditions. We did this after experiencing a community home outbreak after a person we serve returned home from a hospital stay that was not COVID-19 related.
Losing weight, lowering blood pressure and controlling blood sugar are key strategies in preventing severe health consequences from COVID-19 and many other conditions. Evergreen will continue our focus on empowering and inspiring those we serve to make healthy choices.
Our horticulture programs allow individuals to grow and eat organic produce. Our day programs offer a variety of fitness equipment. We regularly schedule exercise classes for those who want to participate. And although none of these are occurring right now because of COVID-19 closures, we are doing everything we can to ensure that the individuals we serve are getting fresh air, taking lots of walks or being strolled and eating balanced meals.
Last month, Evergreen joined hundreds of other providers in participating in a survey conducted by the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR). The survey quantified the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their members—over 1,600 community providers serving individuals with I/DD. Its key findings from providers around the country mirror the hardships we are experiencing at Evergreen. Sixty-eight percent of all organizations surveyed reported that they have had to close one or more service lines due to the pandemic, resulting in an average loss of revenue of 32%. Based on the data reported by the surveyed organizations, the average estimated revenue loss from the closed I/DD services lines, combined with the additional expenditures related to staff training, onboarding and overtime, accounts for about 40% of annual revenue (source: ancor.org/covid-19).
At Evergreen, we have closed all of our day programs, cultural art centers, supportive employment programs and social enterprises. Further, the individuals we serve who earn money from our social enterprise programs are also being impacted as sales grind to a halt. HEAVENDROPt, our largest social enterprise, lost a significant amount of sales revenue when all of the trade shows we had planned to attend this year were canceled. You can visit our HEAVENDROPt website at heavendropt.org.
Last week’s severe storms in Texarkana, TX, were a grim reminder of the approaching storm season here in the south. A large tree impaled the roof of one of our community homes, where all of its residents were sleeping inside. Thanks to the swift action of Direct Support Professionals working the overnight shift, all residents were evacuated without injuries. The community home is now completely uninhabitable and residents have been relocated to other Evergreen properties for the foreseeable future.
The spring typically brings severe weather to the states where we provide services, resulting in tornadoes, flooding and many times, evacuation of homes because of damage. The summer brings hurricane threats. Evergreen has a good disaster plan, and we are prepared to protect our staff members and persons served from these threats from nature. COVID-19 adds increased challenges should we have to relocate persons served because of weather-related issues. So we are preparing for that as well.
Although Evergreen is experiencing some of the most challenging months in its over 60 years of serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I remain hopeful. These unprecedented times have brought out the very best of humanity. In the last few weeks, so many of you have sent Evergreen prayers, kind words and financial support. I couldn’t be more grateful to each of you.
We are keeping updated information on our website at evergreenls.org. You can also view ways you can continue to support us by purchasing an item from our wishlist, by donating, or by visiting heavendropt.org to purchase one of the products that keep HEAVENDROPt in business.