Direct support professionals take on risks during pandemic

Group home staff members continue to care for special-needs patients despite close contact concerns.

News 12 Staff

Apr 22, 2020, 6:44 PM

Updated 1,497 days ago

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Group home staff members continue to care for special-needs patients despite close contact concerns.
“Definitely, In the beginning, it was a challenge…,” says Arc of Rockland direct support professional Sandra Saintime.
Direct support professionals are front-line workers of a different caliber as they assist vulnerable patients with everything from basic hygiene and eating to shopping.
"Making dinner, medication administration, if there's appointments...different outings, social events that are going on ... we're the ones that help them with that, they go grocery shopping with us,” says Saintime.
Arc of Rockland and Jawonio representatives tell News 12 that each organization's dedicated staff willingly continues to work despite concerns.
"They’re really amazing people. They play many roles for the people that they support. They're there to support them with all activities of daily living,” says Jessica Pizzutello, of Arc of Rockland.
Direct Support Professionals typically earn minimum wage, but Jawonio staff member Julette Walters says the job provides riches in other ways.
"I'm caring for people, I’m making people happy and I’m doing a job for them to keep them well,” she says. "You have to look beyond the money and see that you are doing God's work.”
Jawonio CEO Jill Warner hopes society learns about the importance of caretakers and begins to place more value on how much we all need one another.
The employees at both facilities tell News 12’s Beth Cefalu that it’s a labor of love that keeps them smiling.
The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities told News 12 in a statement, “OPWDD is taking the threat of COVID-19 to the people we support and the broader community very seriously and has activated our emergency response team to closely monitor all reports of possible contact within our system across the state. All staff are fully trained on infection control practices and OPWDD has released guidance to staff and voluntary provider agencies regarding visitation and quarantine protocols at our facilities.”
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