Dallas County

Group Home for Special Needs Adults Desperate for COVID-19 Vaccines, Not on Federal Priority List

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is not without issues, especially when local and federal priority groups differ

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A North Texas long-term care facility for special needs adults is expressing frustration as it continues to anxiously await access to COVID-19 vaccines for the most vulnerable of people.

The battle against COVID-19 for Community Homes for Adults, Inc., or CHAI, is fought on many fronts these days.

Caring for adults with intellectual disabilities living in eight group homes brings its own daily challenges.

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“We tell them over and over, 'Put your mask on your nose. Wash your hands,'” CEO Lisa Brodsky said. “I have residents who put their masks on their heads! Or their neck. They are who they are.”

The long-term care facility is desperate to get COVID-19 vaccines for its 60 staff members and 29 residents, several of whom have contracted the virus.

“I want to keep everybody as safe as I can, but I am losing my battle,” Brodsky said. “Every week I’m dealing with COVID-19 and our residents and our staff are suffering and ultimately we have a solution to this.”

Brodsky said in October, she applied and was initially approved for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's pharmacy partnership program for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

The federal program matches long-term care facilities with pharmacies that will administer the vaccine.

However, Brodsky said there have been several back and forth developments that have ended with her group homes not approved for the program at this time.

“I applied, I thought we were good to go,” she said. “And then once I realized we weren’t part of it, I was crushed.”

According to the CDC’s website, eligible facilities for the now-closed program were those caring primarily for elderly residents, meaning CHAI wouldn’t qualify even though it is listed as part of priority group 1A in the state’s vaccine rollout.

“I just want to make it clear that we’re a vulnerable population,” Brodsky said. “We’re included under the umbrella [of long-term care providers], we just need somebody to acknowledge that and make it happen.”

Brodsky has turned to Dallas County for help.

“This is the first facility we’ve had that’s reached out in this way because most of them signed up for the federal program,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.

Jenkins said Dallas County Health and Human Services would do what it can to get these at-risk residents vaccinated.

“We’ve offered to help [CHAI] in getting the vaccine as we get an allotment,” Jenkins said. “We’re also reaching out to CVS and Walgreens, some of our pharmacy partners, to see if they can get it to them faster.”

Jenkins urged any long-term care facility facing the same road blocks to contact the county for help.

Brodsky was offered the ability to enroll with DSHS as an approved "vaccine provider," having staff administer the vaccines, but declined the offer saying it was not possible.

Brodsky would not disclose how many residents have contracted COVID-19 but said no one has been seriously ill.

She hopes the group's calls for help are answered before it’s too late.

“It’s a surge upon surge in Dallas, you've seen the numbers," Brodsky said. “I can’t keep it out of our group homes, and I need the vaccine as soon as possible.”

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