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Connecticut Disability Advocates Say Hospital Recommendation Falls Short

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Disability rights advocates contend Connecticut officials haven’t done enough to ensure people with intellectual disabilities, including those who may need help due to communication barriers or altered mental status, are able to bring one support person with them if they need hospital care during the coronavirus pandemic.

In most cases, visitors are barred from hospitals in Connecticut because of the crisis.

On Tuesday, the Department of Developmental Services issued a letterasking hospitals to allow support people to accompany patients. But advocates argue it does not require hospitals to do anything, calling it an “inadequate half-step in the right direction.” They also said the letter, which was developed with the Department of Public Health and the Connecticut Hospital Association, only helps people served by DDS.

In a written statement, the group Disability Rights Connecticut said the letter “guarantees no real protection” because DDS and the hospital association have no authority over the hospitals. The advocates are demanding the state’s public health commissioner take action considering her agency oversees hospitals.

Asked about the situation on Tuesday, Paul Mounds, the governor’s chief of staff, noted the DDS commissioner has been “working vigorously on this issue with extreme compassion.” It was unclear whether the administration planned to apply the guidelines in the letter to hospitals to non-DDS clients.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness.

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