COVID Recovery Iowa Project Responds to Changing Needs

February 14, 2022

Photo alt text: COVID Recovery Iowa (CRI) Crisis Counselor Julia Ganda is interviewed by a local television station about the CRI Project.
Photo alt text: COVID Recovery Iowa (CRI) Crisis Counselor Julia Ganda is interviewed by a local television station about the CRI Project.

In the spring of 2020, near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa Compass received funding from the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) to participate in the COVID Recovery Iowa project. Iowa Compass is the state’s disability-related information and referral service, based at the Center for Disabilities, Iowa’s UCEDD. DHS selected five agencies to support the FEMA-funded project, with Compass running a check-in program to address pandemic-related social isolation of people with disabilities around the state, and other Iowans, who were dealing with COVID-related distress, illness, economic hardship, and more.

The original funding for COVID Recovery Iowa (CRI) was expected to support people through the end of that first difficult year, while vaccines were still in development, many had lost jobs or were unable to go to work, and others had lost support staff. Compass hired two former LEND trainees as CRI counselors. They reached out to people around Iowa, with phone calls and texts. Target groups included young adults with ID/DD in urban areas. Older adults with complex health conditions in rural areas, and middle-aged Iowans with mental health needs, and newly diagnosed complex health needs in urban/suburban areas. Phone calls and texts led to meetings via Zoom, and to regularly scheduled Zoom groups and activities.

But even after vaccines became available, the pandemic continued as did the need for support. In early 2021, with extended FEMA funding, the long-term CRI mission emerged: Respond with resources, counseling, and activities; Reconnect people, places, and events; and Reclaim wellness, positivity and a new normal. Supporting Iowans’ ongoing needs for social check-ins and connections throughout and beyond COVID-19 was critical.

Outreach included establishing a new Facebook Group, “Inclusion for All.” Iowa Compass hired a new crisis counselor, Libby Conley, former chaplain at UIHC, to support CRI activities, and additional Compass community resource and database staff to strengthen disability-focused resource navigation to help those in need find information about benefits, housing, HCBS waivers, mental health services, and more.

To date, CRI is funded through the end of June 2022, but the vision for the Project extends well beyond. Learn more about the project from the links below. For questions, get in touch with Iowa Compass director, Mike Lightbody at [email protected].

Visit the CRI website:

Watch the KCRG Interview with CRI Crisis Counselor (former LEND trainee/Social Work) Julia Ganda: Crisis Counselor at Univ. of Iowa Health Care explains COVID Recovery Iowa Program (

Visit the CRI Facebook Group, Inclusion for All – Social Group for People with Disabilities: