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New steps taken to help DSSLC COVID-19 patients

The Denton State Supported Living Center in Denton on March 22, 2020. Photo credit: Cooper Neill for The Texas Tribune

Local and state officials are working to protect the residents and staff of the Denton State Supported Living Center as the coronavirus spreads within its doors.

Denton County announced Friday that there has been a sharp increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the DSSLC. On Thursday, only eight cases had been reported. That number jumped to 39 among residents and two among staff on Friday.

New measures include stationing emergency medical resources on campus and coordinating with multiple hospitals in the region to accept residents that may require hospitalization for COVID-19.

“We are working around the clock to mitigate the spread of the virus at the Denton State Supported Living Center,” said State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, whose district includes the DSSLC. “These are vulnerable Texans with unique needs, and protecting them is of the utmost importance. We have stepped up testing and are bringing in additional resources from the state to ease the strain on our local hospitals. I urge the public to follow local, state and federal orders relating to this crisis. We want everyone to stay safe!”

Effective immediately, Texas Health and Human Services Commission is stationing up to four ambulances on the DSSLC campus to provide transportation for residents who require hospitalization due to COVID-19. These ambulances were secured through the Department of State Health Services’ Texas Emergency Medical Task Force and are not local emergency management resources. There will be no impact to local emergency response capabilities.

HHSC is also working with the Medical Incident Support Team, in coordination with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, to identify multiple hospitals in the region that will accept patients, if necessary. Increasing the number of hospitals that accept these medically fragile residents will preserve hospital capacity in Denton and across the region.

Denton SSLC staff have dedicated homes on campus for residents who test positive for COVID-19 and do not require hospitalization, and residents recovering from the virus who have been discharged from a hospital. These residents will be isolated while receiving care to prevent spread. Denton SSLC staff working with sick residents, or residents who may have been exposed to COVID-19, are being supplied personal protective equipment and are following all CDC guidelines to protect their safety and prevent spread.

On March 13, HHSC suspended visitation and on-campus events at SSLCs across the state. In addition, on March 16, Denton SSLC began screening all employees and essential visitors for fever and respiratory illness prior to entering the facility.

While SSLCs must meet certain staffing requirements to provide essential services, staff who are not required to be on campus are teleworking.

Established in 1960, Denton SSLC serves the 18 counties of the greater Dallas area. The center’s 1,470 employees provide 24-hour residential care, medical services and vocational training to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Nearly 450 people call the center home.

Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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