NCD urges HCBS strengthening, calls for ‘Community Living Bias’ in view of COVID-19 death toll
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 16, 2022
WASHINGTON—Today the National Council on Disability releases a report examining weaknesses in the home- and community-based services (HCBS) ecosystem, taking stock of the preventable disproportionate death toll in congregate settings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Strengthening the HCBS Ecosystem – Responding to Dangers of Congregate Settings during COVID-19 builds upon findings in NCD’s 2021 Progress Report: The Impacts of COVID-19 on People with Disabilities and 2012 report Deinstitutionalization: Unfinished Business. The report illustrates the interworking of the HCBS ecosystem, including the direct care workforce and an adequate accessible, affordable housing inventory, and how HCBS is safer, costs less, and is the preference of most individuals over institutional settings.
Currently, 820,000 people with disabilities remain on wait lists to transfer out of institutional settings. During the first year of the pandemic, 35,000 nursing home residents died of COVID-19, representing 42% of the total deaths in the U.S.
“For many people with disabilities during the pandemic, congregate settings had a devastating impact,” said NCD Chairman Andrés Gallegos. “In many instances, social distancing wasn’t achievable and the inability to transition out of such a setting became a death trap.”
NCD found that approximately 14 million Americans of all ages need HCBS, with 40% being adults under 65 years old, and people younger than 30 years old making up the fastest growing nursing home population.
“Severe shortages of direct care workers and available affordable, accessible housing are just two examples are longstanding fragilities in the HCBS ecosystem,” said the Chairman. “The neglect in addressing these matters led to the preventable deaths of scores of Americans with disabilities and will again if policymakers don’t act.”
The report offers NCD’s key recommendations to create a new paradigm – the Community Living Bias – with pointed recommendations for policymakers for Medicaid, the direct care workforce, housing policy, hospital discharge planning, COVID-19 flexibilities and waivers, and data collection.
NCD is an independent, bipartisan federal agency that advises the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policy.
Read the report at NCD.gov.