[Tools & Resources]

People in Your Neighborhood

A Note from CIL President & CEO Kent Schwendy

I’m sure we’re all going to learn a lot from our experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic.  It’s going to take years and be the subject of several doctoral theses before we can sort through and debate what happened, why, and what lessons we can take from it.  However, there are a few lessons that seem to be readily apparent, even now.

Many of us have learned some personal lessons and a little more about ourselves.  Some of those things might be rather mundane and some may have been profound insights.  People have had a chance to rediscover seldom-practiced activities like sewing (although sewing masks might be a new product), cooking (beyond using the microwave to heat up leftovers from the last restaurant visit), and the joy of playing board games or doing puzzles together.

More importantly, we’ve learned the true value of some of our community members - people that perhaps didn’t get the appreciation they deserved before the pandemic.  Remember the song from Sesame Street, “People In Your Neighborhood”?  Maybe it’s time to write a few new verses to celebrate those whom we had forgotten or undervalued.

One profession I’d highlight in my expanded rendition is that of the Direct Support Professional (DSP). DSP’s work directly with people with physical and/or intellectual disabilities with the aim of assisting the individual to become integrated into his/her community. They are essential to ensuring the health and safety of the people with intellectual and developmental disabilities they support, and it is impossible to do their job while following the rules of social distancing. Some DSP’s have even chosen to quarantine with the people they care for – an act of selflessness, which deserves a spotlight.

Perhaps most amazingly, it seems that politicians have remembered how to put petty differences aside and work together to get things done.  The government (state and federal) has moved at a pace I never imagined they could. Yet, as always, there is work to be done. According to ANCOR, the American Network of Community Options and Resources, the federal government is expected to announce how it will spend the remainder of emergency funds Congress appropriated last month through the CARES Act next week. So far, none of that funding has reached Medicaid-funded providers of disability services. You can learn more about this, and help advocate, by using ANCOR’s amplifier tool.

Yes, there are still difficult and dark days ahead, but I am hopeful and optimistic that we can face them together.  More than anything else, I think we’ve all learned how much we depend on each other, who we can count on, and how interconnected our world has become.