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Friday, May 24, 2019

Institutionalization During and After Disasters

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families.  Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.

The National Council on Disability has a new report: Preserving Our Freedom: Ending Institutionalization of People with Disabilities During and After Disasters.
SCOPE: This report examines occurrences of institutionalization of people with disabilities, as well as threats of institutionalization that were thwarted, in 2017 and 2018, including during Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, and Michael, and the California wildfires. This report:
  • Examines how, when, and why people with disabilities were institutionalized during and after recent disasters.
  • Examines the systemic issues that continue to cause institutionalization of persons with disabilities.
  • Discusses the grave short- and-long-term physical, mental, and financial consequences that institutionalization wreaks.
  • Provides recommendations and promising practices that would enable federal agencies to eliminate institutionalization of persons with disabilities during future disasters.
SUMMARY: NCD examined available data from several major storms and disasters and found that people with disabilities are frequently institutionalized during and after disasters due to conflicting federal guidance; a lack of equal access to emergency and disaster-related programs and services; and a lack of compliance with federal law.
The report, which focuses on the reasons people with disabilities experience involuntary institutionalization as a result of disasters, found that the Federal Government offers conflicting guidance on the topic.
The report also found that recipients of federal funds do not have training for how to comply with federal requirements to provide equal access to emergency and disaster-related programs and services when using federal dollars, nor do they have the cultural competence to interact with people with disabilties and often adhere to stereotypes and myths about disability that results in institutional placement. As a result of unnecessary institutionalizations during and after disasters, people with disabilities often go unaccounted for, families are separated from loved ones, working individuals with disabilities often become unemployed, and students with disabilities are often excluded from returning to school with their peers. The report concludes with recommendations for federal policymakers.

From the report:
Anecdotal evidence shows that people with mobility disabilities, autism, intellectual disabilities, actual or perceived psychiatric disabilities, dementia, brain injury, and COPD and respiratory disabilities have been unnecessarily institutionalized during disasters in a variety of facilities.
 One senior executive at a major oil company in Texas who is the parent of a child with autism attributed her inability to resume work after Hurricane Harvey to the lack of child care and transportation from their temporary housing location to her child’s school, which was now several hours away. The relocation of the family’s in-home support providers resulted in the loss of that essential service. The school district offered
residential care so the mother could resume employment, an illustration of multilayered
economic ramifications.