INDIANAPOLIS — Nearly two years ago, health officials reported their first case of COVID-19 in Hoosier State.
Soon after, the Hoosiers were told to hide as schools and businesses closed, many moved online and public spaces quieted down.
Since then, the state has gone through several waves of the pandemic and new variants of the virus as well as the rollout of the vaccine in early 2021.
While every person in the state has been impacted in some way by this pandemic, WRTV takes a look at a specific group to see how last year’s pandemic, isolation, and vaccine deployment had an impact on their lives.
“There has always been a lot of anxiety and just questions through all aspects of COVID,” said Kim Dodson, CEO of Arc of Indiana.
The Arc of Indiana is a statewide organization that advocates for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
During the pandemic, their advocates and office continued to reach out to this community of Hoosiers who were often at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and did not always have access to the same services as before the pandemic, as many providers and caregivers moved more online for public safety.
“Isolation, anxiety and depression, and so as soon as we started not hearing from the people we used to hear from, we started reaching out to those people to see how you go,” Dodson said. “Check on them, see what they needed.”
According to an ABC News report, hundreds if not thousands of ongoing calls come in to this community’s Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) each week with questions about COVID-19, vaccinations, testing locations and more.
ABC News reports that the DIAL program was established in May 2021 and since then this call center has been inundated with calls regarding vaccinations, finding vaccination sites, home vaccination availability, education callers about vaccine information and overcoming physical or systemic barriers to accessing vaccine and boosters.
WRTV spoke with Dodson to see if Indiana has seen any issues with disabled Hoosiers getting access to Covid vaccines, especially during the early 2021 deployment.
While she said some states have reported barrier issues, and even some medical discrimination for this community, she is happy to report that Indiana has not seen these types of major issues.
She said the Indiana Department of Health reached out to them about being part of the vaccine committee early on, and they appreciate being involved in this effort. She added that the Family and Social Services Administration has worked with IDOH to ensure that anyone receiving state services for a disability has even faster access to a Covid vaccine.
The state has worked with providers across the state to help get people in this community and their caregivers vaccinated.
ARC of Indiana and its advocates work to answer the calls and connect Hoosiers to the services they need.
“We have people who answer the phone every day, almost 24/7, so if they know of anyone who needs help, let them get in touch,” Dodson said. “We want to make sure they’re connected to the right people.”
She also added that many people in this community have spent the past two years feeling isolated and scared, and in many cases they still do not have access to all services to the extent that they were. before the pandemic.
She said their direct support professionals are not getting vaccinated at the percentage she hoped for at this time and that many people with disabilities do not want services from unvaccinated people. With the current shortage of workers in place, this adds to the problem, she added.
Early in the state’s vaccine rollout, this community was high on the priority list for early access to vaccines.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and IDOH’s report on the state’s vaccine allocation plan, the state has involved several different advisory groups in the decision-making process and has put in place phases for the groups to be vaccinated.
The first phase of the plan aimed to support our healthcare system, prioritizing healthcare workers who may be exposed directly and indirectly at work.
This included people working in hospitals, long-term care facilities, ambulatory care facilities, home care facilities, pharmacies, dialysis centers, emergency medical services, public health response frontline and COVID-19 diagnostic and vaccination teams.
The second part of this phase was to protect vulnerable people in our population who are most at risk for serious complications from COVID-19, based on the latest evidence from health officials.
The next phase of the rollout focused on mitigating the spread by vaccinating essential workers who are in settings where social distancing is not possible.
Next, the state worked on vaccination of the general public which was broken down by age group.
Today, vaccines are readily available, as well as boosters, but Dodson said for people with disabilities, transportation is still a big issue in terms of getting shots and getting doctor appointments.
With Arc of the United States, they are working on videos for people with disabilities, their families, and direct support professionals to talk about vaccines and answer any questions or concerns.
If you or someone you know needs assistance or access to services, you can contact Arc of Indiana.