The coronavirus pandemic continues to disproportionately affect the ability of individuals supported by LADD to safely move about the community.
LADD is an agency that empowers adults with developmental disabilities, assisting with housing, employment and other means of independence.
Matt Chaffin enjoys using Metro to get around and visit friends and family, but he's been unable to since the pandemic made it unsafe for people at higher risk. He's also been unable to go to his job as an office assistant at LADD.
"It did not make me feel good," he says of the pandemic shutdown that began in mid-March. "I wasn't able to get on the bus. I wasn't able to go home to Anderson, nothing."
Normally, he says, he'd take the bus to visit his parents in Anderson on the weekends, but the pandemic put a stop to that. "My father and I are close and I love visiting mom and dad," he says, noting that's been one of the biggest downsides to not riding the bus.
In June, LADD began working with individuals and their families to facilitate safe, socially distant in-person visits. Chaffin was able to visit with his parents rather than just talk on the phone. "It made me feel great," he says.
In April, LADD staff and board members began distributing "Brighter Days Boxes" filled with books, comic books, puzzles, games and crafts. In the past month, the agency has helped some individuals get out safely to things like drive-in movies or small outdoor movie nights between groups of roommates.
Chaffin says he spends a lot of time doing word searches, working on Power Point presentations and talking to friends and family on the phone. Recently he's taken walks and visit the park with staff member.
"We went to a drive-in movie at Starlite Drive-In," he says, where they saw the movie Jaws. "I'm a scary movie kind of guy," he adds with a laugh.
LADD says staff members are constantly monitoring themselves for coronavirus symptoms or exposure and the agency will soon roll out ongoing antibody testing "for staff members we've identified to be 'high priority' based on the number of individuals they work with and/or the health/risk factors of those individuals."
Ashley Neal is the program manager for the Community Supported Living program at LADD. She says some people are doing pretty well and others are struggling during the pandemic. LADD supports about 500 individuals.
"We have people that live in four-bedroom homes that have housemates and staff around the clock, they seem to be doing a lot better. They're not as lonely as the folks that we have that live by themselves and are eager to return back to normalcy like work and day programs," she says.
There's been a lot of positive reaction, she says, to the program facilitating outdoor visits using social distancing and "a lot of caution."
She says individuals have been "thrilled" with the visits and LADD hasn't recorded any coronavirus cases.