CLD Researchers Explore the Effects of COVID Among People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Direct Support Professionals

January 8, 2021

The Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD) at Georgia State University (GSU) received a $25,000 grant from the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) to conduct a mixed-method study exploring the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and the direct support workforce.

"We know that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have historically experienced disproportionate risk during disasters and emergencies, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been no different," notes Dr. Vinoski Thomas, project director and Research Assistant Professor at CLD. Likewise, the professionals that support people with IDD (i.e., direct support professionals, or DSPs) are also at increased risk for contracting and experiencing complications from COVID-19.

During times of forced isolation, people with IDD and DSPs-especially those who live together in group settings- may increasingly rely on each other for socialization, support, and to navigate uncertainty. Understanding how these relationships shape outcomes for both PWIDD and DSPs is important to inform emergency preparedness and response efforts and to support calls for legislative change around DSP pay and working conditions at the local, state, and national levels.

The funding received from GCDD is intended to expand the work Dr. Vinoski Thomas and her team began earlier this year. The initial project was funded by a quick response award from the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and involved conducting a survey of people with IDD and DSPs about their quality of life during the pandemic. GCDD funding will support conducting in-depth interviews with a sample of survey respondents at two timepoints to more thoroughly explain survey findings.

An important goal of this project is to purposefully collect information from people with IDD and DSPs who represent Black and Latinx communities, because they have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. "Ultimately, we hope to contribute to the evidence base that supports advocacy efforts aimed at improving the emergency preparedness and health care policies that placed people with IDD and DSPs, and especially those who represent communities of color, at risk in the first place," describes Dr. Vinoski Thomas.

Research Team: The research team at CLD also includes recent GSU MPH student Rachel Odunlami, SPH PhD student Bridgette Schram, and CLD intern and University of Georgia MSW/MPH student Sombal Bari.

Contact: E-mail Dr. Vinoski Thomas ([email protected]) for more information.