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'We want them safe': Families concerned over lack of oversight and COVID-19 in group homes

Families of those in group homes are concerned over how COVID-19 is impacting their loved ones and those around them and are worried there isn’t enough oversight.

PHOENIX — Families of those in group homes are concerned over how COVID-19 is impacting their loved ones and those around them, and they are worried there isn’t enough oversight to protect members and staff amid the pandemic.

“We want them safe,” Dean Baker said.

Denise and Dean Baker’s son, Tyler, is living in a group home for those with developmental disabilities. They feel Tyler is well taken care of at his home. However, when COVID-19 started spreading in Arizona they started asking questions of the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD).

"We’re like, ‘Oh my gosh what happens if staff brings it in? Or one of these guys comes down with COVID-19, what’s the protocol?” Dean Baker said.

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The Bakers know those living in these homes do not fully understand what the pandemic means.

"They are not understanding social distancing. They do not understand their routines are disrupted,” Denise Baker said.

The Bakers say they have been collecting and donating supplies to Tyler’s home because there hasn’t been enough funding, training or PPE for members and staff in the homes, and attribute it to a lack of oversight.

“Where is DDD?,” Denise Baker said.

The Department of Economic Security, which oversees DDD, did not respond to 12 News’ interview request. DES said in a statement it is working to “ensure (group homes) comply with guidelines as published by the CDC or ADHS.” 

As for PPE, the agency says, “that despite the additional funding, (vendors) face significant difficulty in acquiring PPE.” They added they’ve asked group homes be prioritized for distribution of PPE.

“We think this is bureaucracy at it’s finest, and we think it has moved too slow,” Denise Baker said.

“We can’t forget these good folks, we just can’t,” Dean Baker said.

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