Monday, January 21, 2013
Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State address renewed the public’s attention on the ongoing struggle the people of New York (and New Jersey) continue to bear from Hurricane Sandy. Accordingly, I would like to bring further attention to a more specific and increasingly worrisome issue.
As we have seen, many of those affected by the storm lost their homes and were forced to move or find shelter elsewhere until their houses can be rebuilt or their apartments are no longer condemned. Unfortunately, there are many individuals who either do not have adequate access to the proper resources to do so or are being improperly placed, specifically individuals with disabilities and frail and elderly populations.
The Center for Independence of the Disabled New York, the primary Independent Living Center in New York City, serves thousands of individuals with disabilities and has been struggling to find housing for displaced consumers now living without adequate medical care and who are facing increasing health risks.
Many of these individuals have been moved from their homes, condemned housing facilities, group homes, and institutions to remaining nursing homes that are now dangerously overcrowded with overwhelmed staff and inadequate resources to meet the needs of the growing and diversifying population entering their doors.
I’m receiving increasing input from my colleagues regarding continued issues in the city and unaddressed requests for public officials to take the necessary steps to provide service providers, including local ILCs, the necessary tools that would allow them to be made an integral part of the emergency management process. FEMA is unlikely to know the needs of such diverse populations that ILCs serve. The location and necessities of the people we serve are already known to us; when disaster hits we are able to identify and isolate those in need.
Certain individuals may need a backup supply of medication, catheters, ventilator equipment, insulin, colostomy supplies and other materials specific to their disability. If such service providers and Independent Living Centers were partnered with emergency managers, we could make sure that such populations are not neglected and left to wait for a knock at the door by volunteers who find them without care, such as was reported by The New York Times.
This is a call to action. I can only hope that future planning will integrate Independent Living Centers in the emergency management process.
The writer is systems advocate, Resource Center for Accessible Living, Inc.