Mark Zidian is like everyone else struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic: he worries about buying milk, bread, cleaning products, toilet paper and other necessities.
But Zidian’s shopping list is much larger than most: he needs 40 to 50 gallons of milk, 80 loaves of bread and as many as nine cases of 96 rolls of toilet paper a month to take care of the three family homes for mentally ill adults he operates in the Youngstown area.
Zidian’s Windhaven House Inc. has 49 residents, all of whom require three meals a day, seven days a week, plus medical and personal needs. It’s a big job in normal times, but it’s an enormous one as the Coronavirus spreads, making it more difficult if not impossible to get needed food and supplies.
“It’s just desperate,” he said. “It’s the anxiety of not knowing if you’re going to be able to get the quantity you need. The biggest barrier we’re dealing with is getting cleaning products and paper products.”
Zidian is not alone. In all, 4,500 Ohio citizens with mental health issues live in adult care facilities or group homes throughout the state. Many home operators are in desperate need of food and supplies to protect their residents from the threat of COVID-19. Many of the home residents have co-occurring health conditions that put them at a higher risk of contracting the illness and of having the most severe outcomes.
Like Zidian, the operators – most of whom manage small facilities housing from five to 16 severely mentally disabled citizens – are doing their best to obtain the necessary food and supplies.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio, the Ohio Adult Care Facilities Association, state agencies and some private donors are helping by providing money and other resources.
The Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services has announced that they will be giving every home operator in Ohio $425 for each home to help get through this crisis. That money will be a tremendous help to those operators who have additional expenses under the Governor’s stay-at-home order.
NAMI Ohio has been able to purchase a limited number of cleaning supplies, gloves, and thermometers. These items are being distributed to homes throughout the state this week. Through a huge donation from Bath & Body Works, NAMI Ohio is currently distributing 30,000 bottles of liquid hand soap to not only adult care facilities but also to children’s residential programs and recovery homes.
NAMI Ohio has also set up an emergency fund that will allow for the opportunity to offer financial assistance to any homes that are under-staffed and in need of emergency assistance to deal with this crisis.
In addition to taking care of the physical needs of their residents, Zidian and other family home operators are concerned about their mental health as Ohioans continue to face a stay-at-home order from Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton.
Many home residents are used to going out to work, shop, see friends or get outside. Much of that has been stopped as state officials try to “flatten the curve” to spread out the more devastating effects of the virus. The shutdown is having an effect on residents, some of whom don’t fully understand what’s going on and why.
“There’s heightened anxiety, heightened paranoia,” Zidian said. “Some are working. They’re scared. They don’t feel stable. They don’t want to believe it. It’s very hard to believe when you say you cannot go out today.”
Operators aren’t immune to the stress.
“I could probably break down and just start crying,” Zidian said.
“But looking after the people is what keeps me going. It’s a labor of love. These people that we care for are the most vulnerable and the most loving people.”
NAMI Ohio is continuing to solicit donations of cash and supplies to distribute to group homes around the state.
The critical need items are hand sanitizer, disinfectant cleaners, cleaning wipes, gloves, non-perishable food items and grocery gift cards. 100% of all donations made during this crisis will be used to purchase cleaning supplies and other much needed items for these adult care homes.