SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s part congregate care, part independent living and some of those they serve are classified as essential workers.
So how does LifeScape, an organization that serves adults and youth with intellectual and other disabilities, fit into the South Dakota Department of Health’s vaccination plan? Gerry Tracy, vice president of education and residential services, said LifeScape serves about 450 adults in a variety of settings. It also serves youth and infants.
“We advocated for a long time that we fit into 1B,” Tracy said. Especially for some of the seriously ill patients being cared for in LifeScape medical facilities and those that live in congregate sites.
The 1B category was for long-term care residents, according to the DOH plan.
“Vaccine prioritization as outlined in the states vaccination plan is determined by those individuals that are the most vulnerable (health wise) and those most likely to come into contact/be exposed with COVID-19 positive patients,” Daniel Bucheli said in an email response to KELOLAND News questions.
While happy that nursing home residents were receiving the vaccination under the 1B phase of the vaccination of the plan, LifeScape officials believed there was room for its organization and residents in that category.
The DOH placed LifeScape in the 1D category in its vaccination plan.
Part 1D includes: Persons aged 65 years and older and starting w/those 80 years of age and older (Age to be lowered in coming weeks); High risk patients such as those on dialysis, post-transplant, and active cancer; High risk residents in congregate settings; Persons with 2 or more underlying medical conditions; Several other sub categories.
Now, with about 40% of its staff vaccinated, the organization and its young adult and adult clients and residents are preparing for vaccinations in the 1D category.
The state has started with 1D, DOH Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said in a Jan. 20 news briefing and has started with those 80 and older.
Although the 1B classification didn’t happen, LifeScape has a good relationship with the DOH and the South Dakota Department of Human Services and is ready to move ahead with 1D, Tracy said.
“A lot depends on all the doses available,” Tracy said.
There are an estimated 265,000 people in the 1D category, so the pace of vaccinations will depend on the amount the state receives, Malsam-Rysdon said.
Malsam-Rysdon said on Jan. 20 the state still expects about 11,000 doses a week for now.
LifeScape’s first priority is residents of group homes. Then it would vaccinate those who are in more independent living settings that still need care. The third stage would be clients who access LifeScape services.
Although there are priorities built into the state’s vaccination plan, Malsam-Rysdon said for congregate settings such as LifeScape, the plan would not be to vaccinate several individuals who fit into a certain age range and make those who don’t wait.
“…we want to be as efficient as possible that residents of the whole facility would be offered the vaccine,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “That’s very similar to how it was in our long term care and assisted living facilities.”
As to LifeScape, “Now again, they may have more than one building so it may logistically work out to be that certain buildings are offered the vaccine together on certain days. Again it won’t be parsing out to individuals within those settings,” Malsam-Rysdon said.
What’s been happening during the coronavirus pandemic in the Sioux Falls community is a lot like what’s been happening at LifeScape, Tracy said.
“LifeScape’s reality very much fit our community,” Tracy said of how the coronavirus has impacted staff, residents and clients.
“LifeScape is definitely a continuum of care,” Tracy said. “From very, very young infants as well as folks at the end of life.”
Employees and LifeScape residents/clients experienced COVID-19 cases and losses just like others in the community. At the same time, employees work with adults who are “incredibly independent,” Tracy said.
Some of those more independent adults were classified as essential workers who needed to work during the pandemic, Tracy said.
Policies and procedures were in place but in the case of adults who were essential workers, different protocol had to cover them, Tracy said.