The holidays are here! Throughout the world, regardless of your faith, today is a day of hope and joy. Celebrate, and take time to look for the blessings in your life. Please know that I wish you all love.
Our world needs joy and hope, doesn’t it? We’ve all had a tough year, dealing with the suddenness, havoc and deadliness of the Coronavirus that has changed the course of our lives. It’s been a time to try daily to survive the virus, to grieve the loss of friends and loved ones who have not survived and to struggle to move forward in a different world than what we knew only months ago.
Today, let us focus on the joy and hope that holidays bring us. We have much for which to be thankful, even in a fallen world. If we have the right perspective, we can always be grateful for the good things we have in life. I, myself, have an abundance of good, and I am celebrating that especially upon this day: my life, my family, my job at SKIL and all of you, our beloved customers whom I regard as my friends. All these things bring me joy.
There is a plaque on a friend’s living room wall that reads something like this: “Start each day with a grateful heart.”
I try to do this, and I hope you do, too. I am deeply grateful for all of you. I wish you all the happiest of holidays as we look forward to a better year in 2021.
PARSONS, Kan.—The Parsons SKIL Resource Center office will be closed to the public starting Thursday, December 24, 2020 through Monday, January 18, 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns, said SKIL President/CEO Shari Coatney. SKIL’s six branch offices, its Parsons Assistive Technology for Kansans and K-Loan offices will remain open, she said.
Coatney said some staff will be working from home, while others will be in the building. From 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday, there will be someone available at SKIL to pass out the personal protection equipment kits that have been made up for direct support workers (DSWs).
“It is important for everybody to stay safe,” Coatney said, “and sometimes these drastic measures are the only way we can do our part in ensuring others’ safety. We are hopeful that 2021 will bring us a much healthier and more prosperous year. We sincerely regret any inconvenience that this may cause our customers and DSWs. We wish everyone a Happy New Year and look forward to the future.”
As you may have learned, the first round of Coronavirus vaccines have arrived and are being distributed. According to the COVID-19 State Vaccine Plan, healthcare workers and nursing homes are a priority for vaccine distribution.
SKIL and other advocacy groups for people with disabilities are very concerned about alleged institutional bias against people with disabilities regarding vaccine priority distribution. I participated in a web conference Monday morning, along with The Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas, Prairie Independent Living Resource Center, Independent Connection, Topeka Independent Living Center and Kansas ADAPT regarding this matter. I was also interviewed on KOAM-TV 7 News, which aired a video story about the issue on several of its broadcasts.
People in group home settings and who have in-home care should have been included with other frontline workers in Phase 1A of the State Vaccine Plan, because they are all people who are extremely at risk. They, and their attendants, are at equally high risk as those listed in Phase 1A of the Plan.
Phase1 for Kansas Distribution (https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1533/COVID-19-Vaccination-Plan-for-Kansas-Version12-1142020?bidId=) includes the following:
“Phase 1 of the phased approach for the Kansas COVID-19 Vaccine Plan will include Phase 1A and Phase 1B. While there are many unknown variables about the recommendations for use of initial vaccine in Phase 1, it is likely that vaccine will be available as follows:
Phase 1A: • Healthcare personnel paid and unpaid, who are likely to be exposed to or treat people with COVID-19 or infectious materials and are unable to work from home.
Phase 1B: • People at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including those with underlying medical conditions such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart conditions, obesity, sickle cell disease, smokers, or those with a history of smoking, and type 2 diabetes • People 65 years of age and older • Other essential workers • Long-term care residents”
Personal care workers are very essential workers, and the people who receive those services clearly have pre-existing conditions, so the need to have the vaccine available to them is vitally important. We are just asking for equality. “Long-term care” includes the care of those on home and community based services (HCBS), not only nursing homes and hospital patients.
People who depend on attendants to be able to do their daily living needs should have the same rights as those who have those same needs but get their services in a nursing facility or hospital. The workers who put themselves on the front lines to meet the needs of people with disabilities should have access to the vaccine just as the workers in the nursing homes and hospitals do.
SKIL’s Systems Advocacy Manager Lou Ann Kibbee has written a letter to Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and copied Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) Secretary Dr. Lee Norman and other state officials about our deep concern over this alleged terrible institutional bias. To date, we are waiting to hear back from them regarding our concerns. Please keep checking our website to stay current on this vital issue that affects so many people with disabilities.
I will keep fighting for you!
Organizations in Kansas pushing to have people with disabilities put in Phase 1 of Vaccine Distribution
KOAM NEWS- In a web conference Monday morning, Southeast Kansas Independent Living, The Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas, Prairie Independent Living Resource Center, Independent Connection, Topeka Independent Living Resource Center and Kansas ADAPT joined together to express their concern with the Kansas vaccine distribution plan. -- For More, click the link below! --
For many years, SKIL has hosted its annual holiday meeting at the Parsons VFW. Our annual meeting is open to the public and has included a free hot dinner with an invitation for everyone to attend. We have enjoyed good crowds, hosted and fed hundreds of people, enjoyed great music, listened to special speakers who educated us on disability issues and honored exceptional customers and staff with our annual SKIL awards. It’s been a real joy to serve the community in this way.
This year, we chose not to hold our annual meeting as usual at the VFW because of COVID-19 concerns. It was a difficult decision, and a sad one. The best part of my job is seeing our customers, helping them become more independent and better succeed in life. I love getting to know people who get on SKIL services and truly feel like I have many friends in our customers. We conducted our annual meeting via ZOOM and I hope, even though we could not be together in person, that many of you tuned in.
I appreciate our board members who selflessly serve SKIL and those who came to be a part of the meeting. And I thank our wonderful customers and staff who were honored with our annual SKIL awards. I hope things will return to normal soon, so that we can return to celebrating the holiday with you in person at the Parsons VFW. Thank you for being our loyal customers and friends.