The Center for Learning and Leadership Oklahoma's University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) Distributes over 150,000 Masks Across the State

February 14, 2022

COVID-19 Community Education Coordinator, Miranda Hooper, delivering KN-95 masks across Oklahoma.
COVID-19 Community Education Coordinator, Miranda Hooper, delivering KN-95 masks across Oklahoma.

The Center for Learning and Leadership Oklahoma’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (CLL/UCEDD), at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, received a large donation of KN-95 masks to offer to our community affiliates and academic partners at no cost thanks to their partnership with OU Health. Through this generous donation, the CLL/UCEDD was able to provide over 150,000 high-quality KN-95 masks to more than 25 university affiliates, and CLL-affiliated community-based provider agencies and programs that serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families across the state of Oklahoma.

Each COVID-19 variant continues to affect people with disabilities disproportionately and the CLL faculty and staff have worked hard to help mitigation efforts and vaccine access. Over the course of two weeks, 19 hours, and over 1000 miles, CLL/UCEDD’s COVID-19 Community Education Coordinator, Miranda Hooper, reached out, shared the information, collated requests, scheduled pick-up times for a few, and provided contactless delivery to each location across the state, limiting in-person contact and expediting distribution of masks as the Omicron variant cases continued to rise in record numbers across Oklahoma. This statewide distribution of KN-95 masks has allowed Oklahomans with IDD safer experiences at their jobs, around their communities, and simply in social situations with neighbors. The impact of a donation this large has resulted in decreased social isolation and increased health and safety for community members.

Vaccines, social distancing, and masking are proven tools to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Limited incomes and availability of resources create barriers to access to proper masking, resulting in limited
in-person events and the continued social isolation for people with disabilities. For recipients who provide or receive direct services, the masks that CLL/UCEDD distributed have allowed for safer in-person opportunities. Here are a few of the people and programs that were reached who shared how the masks were put to use:

  • The Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) is a week-long event hosted by the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council where teens with disabilities spend a week at a college campus working on their leadership and advocacy skills. Due to COVID-19, the YLF event has been hosted virtually for the last two years. This year, YLF plans to resume the in-person experience with safety protocols that include distributing KN-95 masks to the participants, staff, and volunteers.
  • Recipients also included agencies that support people with disabilities daily in and around the community. Many people have cloth masks that do not provide the same level of safety that has been proved in the use of the KN-95 masks. As cases have surged, some agencies have had to suspend activities or temporarily close for the safety of their members. Providing KN-95 masks that have a universally accepted standard of safety has allowed activities to resume and community agencies to re-open with greater confidence.    
  • Having the ability to be involved within one’s community is vital, but the pandemic has reshaped the ability to do so without proper safety measures in place.  Willows is an organization that provides low-income apartments for people with disabilities. After receiving their KN-95 masks, the staff made contactless deliveries to each resident’s doorstep. Monica Bread, Willow’s Service Coordinator said, “The mask support helped our residents who were relieved and grateful to have (masks) provided directly to their door rather than having to go out and hunt for them or to go without. It helps (to) have that extra layer of protection through this time of higher COVID and variant transmission.”
  • Employment for people with IDD has also been affected by COVID-19. ThinkAbility, a community-based provider in rural Oklahoma, offers increased access to integrated life choices to adults with IDD. The organization distributed the KN-95 masks that they received to the people they serve and their Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). They also made masks available to community members and neighbors for an extra layer of safety throughout their community and work sites.
  • Another community affiliate organization that provides not only competitive community employment for adults with IDD but also transition-to-work training programs for juniors and seniors in high school was also a recipient of the KN-95 masks. They dispersed their masks to job sites across urban, rural, and suburban communities.

Providing masks also had an indirect impact on people’s hope. Agencies have felt the burden of the pandemic not just through how they serve and support people with disabilities but also in their budgets. Many agencies who received the masks emphasized that their budget did not allow for this sort of purchase. Without the donation from CLL/UCEDD and OU Health, many reported that they would not have been able to provide this level of safety for the people that they serve.

Linn Blohm, Executive Director of Thunderbird Clubhouse, shared this message from one of their members after receiving the KN-95 masks: “I feel safe coming to Clubhouse because they provide masks and enforce strict masking policies. We appreciate all the masks!" 

Blohm added, “Gifts like these give us much-needed HOPE!” 

Oklahoma’s Center for Learning and Leadership/UCEDD is grateful to the University of Oklahoma senior officers who reached out to ask if the KN-95 masks could help and we are thankful and appreciative of our continued partnership with OU Health. To learn more about CLL/UCEDDs COVID-19 Prevention Project or if you need help accessing the COVID-19 vaccine and/or booster, please visit The Center for Learning and Leadership/UCEDD.