The Arc of New Jersey is pleased to let you know about a group of women who are volunteering their time to help secure a COVID vaccine appointment for NJ individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) age 16 and older and seniors. The Vaccine Matchmaker program has over 300 volunteers located throughout New Jersey, working around the clock to secure vaccine appointments for those in need.
It is important to note that the Vaccine Matchmaker volunteers will ask for only the basic information necessary to secure an appointment (name, DOB, email, phone and address). They will never charge a fee or ask for any insurance information, Social Security numbers, or credit card numbers.
Here is a link to their website and the signup form. Please share this information with others with disabilities or senior citizens in New Jersey who are in need of assistance securing a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. If anyone needs special accommodations to be vaccinated, please communicate that need to the Vaccine Matchmaker www.wgirls.org
The Social Security Administration has a long history of outreach and coordination with advocates and community-based organizations across the nation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing to work with advocates and community-based organizations is essential to reaching the country’s most vulnerable populations, including individuals with low income, limited English proficiency, mental illness, or those facing homelessness. The agency is fully committed to assisting people in gaining access to the information and services they need with a specific emphasis on applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
“I made this issue a strategic agency priority and focused resources to reach vulnerable communities and help them access our services and receive their benefits. I ask leaders in every community to share information about our programs with people and help them connect with us to apply for benefits,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. “Social Security is working on many initiatives to reach vulnerable populations and I am pleased to share information about our national outreach campaign, developed in collaboration with leaders in the community, to raise awareness of the SSI and SSDI programs.”
To ensure effective outreach to these vulnerable populations who need access to agency programs, and to the advocates and organizations who can help to connect people with Social Security, the agency launched a national campaign to raise awareness of the SSI and SSDI programs and encourage people to apply. Campaign efforts include:
· A new outreach website, at www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty/groups/vulnerable-populations.html where all partner groups can access informational materials to share through their networks, including resources tailored to specific vulnerable populations;
· An updated Faith-Based and Community Groups website at www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty/groups/faithandcommunity.html with a new outreach toolkit and SSI and SSDI fact sheets. The agency coordinated this effort with the White House, and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is helping to promote these resources; and
· An upcoming national advertising campaign to support all outreach efforts on TV, radio, and social media, with special emphasis on children with disabilities (see the recently redesigned website focused on SSI for children at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/disability/apply-child.html). TV and radio PSAs highlighting SSI for children currently are being tested in the Dallas, TX area to determine their impact.
· The agency is now completing training videos for community-based caseworkers to help their clients with the SSI application process.
People can apply for SSI benefits, and for other benefit programs, through a telephone appointment with the agency, even while local offices are not able to accept walk-in visitors. More people need to be made aware of the SSI program and reminded that they can call toll-free 1-800-772-1213, or their local Social Security office, to make a phone appointment to apply for SSI. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call Social Security’s TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.
!! IMPORTANT UPDATE !!
The Division of Developmental Disabilities is pleased to share a new option for vaccination of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) who reside in group homes and supervised apartments licensed by the Department of Human Services.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have partnered with Walmart Pharmacy to provide a targeted vaccine allocation through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership.
This closed-POD (point-of-dispending) program will launch late in the week of January 18, 2021, and will consist of 12 Walmart Pharmacy sites, each setting aside up to 12 hours per week for vaccinations of I/DD residents only. The directors at each Walmart site will work directly with residential providers to schedule vaccine appointments for their residents.
The Walmart COVID-19 Vaccine Closed-POD Program will be supplied a dedicated allocation from New Jersey’s vaccine supply. Agencies that were included in the Quest COVID-19 Testing Program are eligible and Walmart will contact agencies directly to begin the process. Agencies that are enrolled in the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program are not part of this program and should continue working with their designated pharmacy provider.
Residential providers, residents and families should review the Walmart COVID-19 Closed-POD Program for Residents with IDD in Congregate Residential Settings Licensed by the Department of Human Services overview document for more details on logistics and pharmacy assignment.
Please note the closed-POD option is not the only way for an individual with IDD residing in a congregate setting to be vaccinated. Vaccine supply in New Jersey remains limited, so agencies are advised to exercise multiple methods to receive a vaccine. Residential staff and residents are also able to register for and receive the COVID-19 vaccine at any of the COVID-19 Vaccine Locations for Eligible Recipients. For a complete list of vaccine-eligible categories of individuals, please review the information on Who is eligible for vaccination in New Jersey?
COVID-19 Vaccine Resources
for the Developmental Disabilities Community
We are pleased to share that effective immediately the New Jersey Department of Health has expanded its list of individuals who are eligible to receive the COVID vaccine, as follows:
· Residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and staff in congregate residential settings (group homes and supervised apartments) are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as part of Phase 1A. Please review the information on Who is eligible for vaccination in New Jersey?
· Both (a) individuals aged 65 and older, and (b) individuals ages 16-64 with medical conditions, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that increase the risk of severe illness from the virus are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Residential providers may begin scheduling vaccine appointments for residents. Individuals who fall into other eligible groups described above, or their caregivers, can also begin scheduling their appointments. Please review Where, how, and when can I get vaccinated? for registration and scheduling information.
Information about vaccine options for healthcare workers, including IDD direct support professionals and self-directed employees, was distributed previously by the Division and is available on the NJ Department of Human Services COVID-19 Information Hub.
It is important to remember that, at this time, the national and state vaccine supplies remain limited. As with other vaccinations, providers must obtain informed consent from residents or their guardian(s). To assist in this, individuals or their guardian(s) should be encouraged to review the Emergency Use Authorization Fact Sheets for the currently available vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Please see COVID-19 Vaccine Locations for Eligible Recipients for a frequently-updated list of available vaccine sites.
We also want to call your attention to new COVID-19 Vaccine Educational Resources developed by The Boggs Center to assist people with IDD to better understand the COVID-19 vaccine and what to expect during the vaccine appointment.
We appreciate your support, patience and advocacy during this unprecedented vaccine campaign. If you have other questions about COVID-19 vaccines in New Jersey, please visit COVID-19 Vaccine.
Plans for New Jersey to Rollout the COVID-19 Vaccine
The Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, Judith Persichilli, RN, MSN, MA, held a briefing recently for those in the disability field, to announce New Jersey's plans for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. The two vaccines that are awaiting emergency use approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been developed by Pfizer and Moderna. The Advisory Panel to the FDA is meeting on Thursday, December 10th, to decide whether to recommend emergency authorization to start to distribute the Pfizer vaccine. If, as anticipated, the Pfizer vaccine receives emergency approval, it is expected that those vaccines will start to be distributed quickly. Moderna has also requested emergency authorization from the FDA, and the Advisory Panel meeting on that request will also be held in December.
Since vaccine distribution planning began, The Arc of New Jersey has advocated for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), and the Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who assist them, to receive access to the vaccine as soon as possible. In addition, we have communicated throughout the planning process with lawmakers and members of the Murphy Administration to ensure those we represent remain a top priority and that the needs of the community are kept at the forefront as plans are implemented.
It is expected that New Jersey will receive 76,000 doses of vaccine in the initial shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, but because two injections of the vaccine are required, only 38,000 people will be able to be vaccinated from the first batch. NJ DOH has developed a COVID-19 vaccination plan in three phases. Those in the Phase 1 vaccination category are the highest priority, and Phase 1 is divided into two groups, A and B. In Phase 1A, health care workers and residents of large long-term care facilities will receive the vaccine. Phase 1B will include individuals with I/DD and DSPs. How quickly individuals with I/DD in New Jersey will be vaccinated will depend on how many doses of the COVID vaccine are available.
Some participants in the vaccine trials reported mild to moderate side effects from the COVID vaccine, such as a sore arm, headache, muscle pain, etc. Reports indicate that, if side effects occurred, taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Aleve or Tylenol was helpful in relieving those symptoms.
Legal guardian's permission
Everyone with I/DD who has a legal guardian and is living separately from that guardian will need to have written permission from the guardian before receiving the COVID vaccine. If appropriate, outreach should be started now to request permission from the legal guardian for the COVID vaccine.
Additional COVID-19 vaccination information from the NJ Department of Health (DOH)
The NJ DOH has disseminated a one-page "at a glance" summary of the state's plans for COVID-19 vaccination. Click here for summary. For further details, please click here to see the section of the DOH website devoted to the COVID vaccination plans.
Do you need help during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic?
New Jersey Human Services is here to help you and your family.
The Community Health Directory for NJ Families is a resource net and information hub for social services and programs available in New Jersey. Due to the growing list of services in our State, our Community Health Workers can help you navigate the system and identify accessible autism-appropriate resources. Our primary focus is on the following resources: health insurance applications, food access, mental health resources, medication assistance, and more! Click here.
Job or income loss due to COVID-19? Our Navigator's will help you stay covered! Call now to explore the health insurance options available for you. Call 1-800-355-0271, our enrollment assistance services are provided FREE of charge and are available in English, Spanish and Russian. Click here for video.
Helping Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Become Comfortable with Face Masks. Helping Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Become Comfortable with Face Masks provides strategies supporters can use to help adults with I/DD become more comfortable with face masks. Download the PDF here.
Wearing a Face Mask: A COVID-19 Social Story for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Wearing a Face Mask: A COVID-19 Social Story for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities can help readers understand why face masks are important for themselves and others to wear. Supporters of people with I/DD can also use this resource to discuss the importance of face masks by printing or sharing with the person on a computer screen, tablet, or smartphone. Download the PDF here.
Helping people with autism spectrum disorder manage masks and COVID-19 tests. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many new challenges for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Features of ASD, including impaired social and communication skills, repetitive behaviors, insistence on sameness, and especially sensory intolerances, make adapting to wearing face masks and the experience of a COVID-19 test particularly challenging.
Physical Fitness Activities and Nutrition Support for Autism Families
It’s hard enough to find support and respite when you have a child with autism, but add a pandemic to the mix, and you’ve really got your hands full. Read the full article here.
Resources About Face Masks
Face Mask Resources for Adults
Face masks are an essential and necessary defense in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Some adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities may not understand why they and others need to wear them, or may have fear, anxiety, or sensory challenges that impact mask wearing. The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities has developed two new resources to help adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) become comfortable with face masks.
Helping Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Become Comfortable with Face Masks - provides strategies supporters can use to help adults with I/DD become more comfortable with face masks.
Wearing a Face Mask: A COVID-19 Social Story for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities - can help readers understand why face masks are important for themselves and others to wear. Supporters of people with I/DD can also use this resource to discuss the importance of face masks by printing or sharing with the person on a computer screen, tablet, or smartphone.
Face Mask Resources for Children
The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities and Children’s Specialized Hospital have developed a series of resources to help children understand and feel comfortable wearing face masks. The series includes:
A Parent’s Guide: Helping Your Child Wear a Face Mask - (English) (Spanish)
Help Your Child Feel Good about Using and Seeing Others Wearing Face Masks - (English) (Spanish)
I Can Stay Healthy by Wearing a Face Mask - (English) (Spanish)