Out of an abundance of caution, we are going to reinstitute our agency-wide mask mandate effective Tuesday, August 24. All staff, visitors, and individuals supported (who can tolerate a mask), are again required to wear a mask indoors at all FREE facilities, in vehicles when transporting individuals we support, and indoors in the community while on FREE business. Masks may be removed outdoors and in private spaces and offices. Health questionnaires and daily temperature checks are not required at this time for our agency administrative office locations. However, daily temperature checks and health care questionnaires remain required in all residences & day programs.
In response to the CDC’s recommendation, we are preparing to make booster shots available for vaccinated individuals and staff. We are also monitoring the issue of mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers and do not yet know whether the mandate will apply to our field. We continue to urge all who are able to get vaccinated, and will provide updates as we have them.
We would like to update you on our efforts to advocate for all the services we are honored to provide. This correspondence was originally sent in September 2020, here are some important reminders and updates.
As we are all aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a serious public health crisis for New York and the economic impact to our State will likely be felt for a long time to come. Since the pandemic first began, FREE, Inc. has and will continue to take many proactive and positive steps to address the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and we need your help as we work together to navigate these uncharted waters. We are so pleased with the progress that has been made and we hope to update you very soon on the lifting of any remaining restrictions. We expect an official issuance from OPWDD in the very near future.
FREE proudly works with many government agencies. These government agencies are being forced to cut funding due to the current economic crisis. As of May 1, 2021, a new regulation went into effect focusing on individuals living in group residences. There are now specific guidelines and reimbursement rates for individuals living in a licensed 24 hour residential home. Similarly, effective May 01, 2021, ‘therapy days’ (days in which an individual goes home for one or more nights or goes on vacation) will have a financial impact on providers like FREE. The reimbursement rate for the first 96 therapy days per person per year will be reduced by 50% of the daily rate AND after 96 days, FREE will receive NO reimbursement.
FREE values family connection and acknowledges that spending time with your loved ones is necessary and must be cultivated for the betterment of those we are honored to support each day. However, we wanted to inform our families of this reimbursement reduction and request your assistance in working collectively with the homes to prevent FREE, Inc. from losing vital funds that permit us to continue to operate efficiently. Further, the reductions that the NYS Department of Budget instructed state agency leads to reduce spending across all areas of the agency budget by 5% have been abated due to the success of our Federal advocacy but unfortunately are still being discussed. This is anticipated to translate to additional funding cuts that have yet to be published and therefore we must do all we can to preserve all funding during these changing times. We continue to strive to effect Federal legislation that will abate the discussed State cuts but there are many steps of success required before such change becomes legislation. We issue monthly alerts to all families to ensure you are apprised of any and all information related to the changing environment.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc. (FREE) remained committed to providing the highest quality of supports and services. We have been responding to the pandemic since the beginning. Click here to see how our response has been evolving since March 2020.