Family Visitation Update

As of 12/29/2020 Community Services is modifying the protocol on home visits (to family homes and in IRAs).  Please read below for specific guidelines. 

We implemented the visit pause based on an abundance of caution for those we support and the wish to keep people healthy and safe.  At the time the pause went into effect we had a significant number of positive cases among our IRA’s and Erie County rates had increased as well.  We continue to follow OPWDD, CDC and local Health Department guidance and evaluate the agency status weekly.

As the Erie County rates continue to decrease, they are still over 5%.   We have seen a significant reduction of positive cases among our IRA’s and we attribute that to the pause on home visitations.

We recognize the desire to be with family, especially during the Holiday’s and we appreciate your understanding and willingness to work with us.  Therefore, we are modifying our family visitation protocols to allow for pre-planned, day-time visits.  We believe that prolonged overnight visits, would become difficult to manage and place those we support at greater risk.

It remains priority to keep your loved ones safe and healthy therefore, while we are modifying the pause of family visitation, we are doing so with specific guidelines in place.

Managers are responsible for completing pre-screening prior to the visit to the IRA or to the family home.

Screening questions include: 

  1. Do you have any symptoms of COVID to include, but not limited to: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell? Upon arrival your temperature will be taken.
  2. Have you come in contact with anyone who has had symptoms of COVID (see above) and/or been to a “designated quarantined state” as identified by the NYDOH in the last 14 days?
  3. If you have been instructed to self-quarantine by the Department of Health (DOH), Center for Disease Control (CDC) or their medical provider in the last 14 days?
  4. Have you come in contact with anyone under a DOH quarantine in the last 14 days.

Screening Determination:

If you respond with a YES to ANY of the above questions, we cannot allow the visit to take place at this time.

Additional Safeguards: 

Individuals may participate in home and family visits if there is reasonable assurance obtained that appropriate risk mitigation strategies are in place and that those, they are visiting do not have a confirmed nor suspected case of COVID-19.

Appropriate risk mitigation includes social distancing, use of masks or other face coverings when tolerated, as well meticulous attention to hand washing, proper cleaning and disinfection.

Home visits must be pre-planned and approved of by the Director or Assistant Director of Residential Services.  Again, with this modification to our protocol we are allowing for daytime visits for now.  We will continue to adhere to CDC, OPWDD, and local Health Department guidance, monitor rates in the County and within our agency and re-visit our protocols as necessary.

Upon leaving the site, families should remember risk mitigation strategies, as stated above, and that exposure to members of different household and to public places should be done with caution and on a limited basis. See “Family Guidance for In-Home and Off-Site Visits” that includes best practices to implement these risk mitigation strategies.

If your loved one resides in an IRA where there is a positive case, and/or if someone is exhibiting signs of symptoms of COVID-19 and/or  if someone was in close contact/exposed to someone with COVID-19 and/or the site is in quarantine, we must pause the home visit until the quarantine or isolation period has ended as directed by the New York State.

Managers will be reaching out to touch base on your family’s specific situations.

General questions can be sent to

Family Visitation

Please be advised, IRA visitation remains PAUSED (as announced on 11/12/2020) out of an abundance of caution for both those we support and our employees.  This includes family visits to your home as well as visits at the IRA.  We made this decision due to the rapid community spread of COVID-19 and a way to mitigate the spread among our group settings.  It’s important to protect your loved one, you and our employees.

Please know that we have made this decision with the best interest of all involved.

Important Information about the COVID-19 Vaccine for People with Developmental Disabilities

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As you are likely aware, the first doses of the long-awaited vaccine against COVID-19 have made their way to New York State. On December 14, Sandra Lindsay, an ICU nurse from Queens, made history as the first person in the United States to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. All of us at OPWDD are grateful that a vaccine that can help protect the people we support, and our staff who care for them, is now in sight.

Governor Cuomo has announced a phased-in approach to vaccine distribution and people with developmental disabilities living in congregate settings, and the staff who care for them, will be among the first to receive the vaccine in Phase 1 of the distribution. You can find more information about the phased-in approach to vaccine distribution here.

At this time, I’d like to alert you to some materials we have made available to help you understand the vaccine distribution process and what it means for you. These include a video explaining the vaccine and a plain language document. All the materials about the COVID-19 vaccine will be found on the OPWDD COVID-19 webpage, including a copy of the NYS Department of Health Screening and Consent Form for COVID-19. As new guidance becomes available related to the vaccination process, it will also be posted on that page.

While plans for distributing the vaccine are underway and are moving quickly, a lot needs to happen to ensure success. First, I would like to emphasize that the more people who are offered the vaccine and choose to take it, the better the public health outcome will be. As valued members of our OPWDD community, I appeal to each and every one of you to help educate others about the importance of vaccination and do your part to encourage widespread vaccination. Each person eligible for vaccination will need to consent to being vaccinated. OPWDD will soon be issuing guidance on the consent process and will be sharing it via our email delivery system and on our website.

While the vaccine’s arrival in New York is welcome news, please remember that the threat of COVID-19 is far from over. The vaccine may not prevent people from catching COVID-19 and does not protect against any other viruses, but people who are vaccinated are much less likely to become sick after the vaccine. And if they do catch COVID-19 after vaccination, they are much less likely to feel sick or die as a result of this virus.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have warned repeatedly, COVID-19 can spread anywhere, even places where you feel safe, like your home. Please continue to follow public health guidance by staying at least 6 feet away from other people, washing your hands frequently, wearing a mask when you are in the presence of other people and avoiding crowds both small and large. If we take every precaution available to us, we will have the best chance of staying safe from this extremely contagious virus.

Please be certain that you are signed up for OPWDD updates. It is the quickest and best way to stay up to date about COVID-19 and all OPWDD news. Sign up here.

Please stay safe,

Theodore Kastner, M.D., M.S.


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, I want to reassure you that our priorities remain the same, the safety and health of the people we support, as well as all our employees.

It takes each and every one of us to limit and contain the spread of COVID19, which can have serious effects on your loved one, others they share programs with, our staff and your family.

We have decided to temporarily pause family visits to your home as well as visits at the IRA.  Each family has their own unique situation; therefore, mangers will be reaching out to you to discuss your loved ones situation.

We made this decision due to the rapid community spread of COVID19.  Many of our locations are in the 5%-11% positive rate of COVID19.   It’s important to protect your loved one, you and our employees.

Please know that we have made this decision with the best interest of all involved.

Guidance continues to change almost daily between NYS, County and OPWDD.

Community Services for Every1 continues to monitor COVID-19 exposure and our region’s numbers of positive cases and hospitalizations. We have been operating in a proactive manner with a range or precautionary measures since early spring. As there have been recent spikes in positive cases in our Western New York region, please remain advised that progression, pause or reversal of our phases of program opening/operations and protocols will be determined by our team, based on continual monitoring and regulatory guidance.

Please visit our website at and click on the RED COVID19 Information button for latest guidance.  Please also utilize our COVID19 designated mailbox for questions at or call 716-883-8888, EXT 707.