Collaboration Helps Keep SHA Residents Healthy and Safe

technician wearing Personal Protective geat uses a swab to administer a COVID test

For more than 20 years, Aging and Disability Services (ADS)—a division of the Seattle Human Services Department designated as the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) for Seattle-King County—has partnered with Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) to provide on-site AAA case management services for residents of 52 high-rise and “senior” buildings.

During the COVID pandemic, ADS and SHA have built upon this partnership in a variety of ways to support residents struggling with the challenges of quarantining and social distancing—making wellness check-in calls, connecting residents with food resources, and making sure long-term services and supports are safely provided.

On two occasions this past summer, ADS partnered with SHA and Public Health—Seattle & King County to conduct building-wide COVID testing in the wake of several positive COVID tests reported in the buildings. On both occasions, more than two-thirds of residents were successfully tested using mobile testing facilities—65 residents in one building and 175 in the other.

The success of these testing events was largely due to the longstanding trusted relationship established within these communities, as well as ADS’ ability to provide information and outreach in a variety of languages.

These testing events and other outreach efforts—phone calls, posting COVID-related information in each building, and more—have played a role in keeping SHA residents and buildings largely COVID-free, despite housing a large number of high-risk older and disabled adults. As of October, only 25 cases had been reported among a total of 4,500 SHA residents.

Similarly, ADS, SHA, and Rite Aid partnered this fall to set up flu vaccination clinics at eight SHA buildings—most smaller buildings serving older people—and provided more than 60 vaccinations. Many of those served hadn’t received a vaccination in previous years and were reluctant to go to a pharmacy (or go out in general) due to COVID. Residents wore masks and maintained social distancing.

ADS case manager Kieu Barr did a lot of set up for the clinic, posted information in multiple languages, followed up with calls, and assisted with the day-of operation of the clinics. Additional SHA flu clinics are planned this month.

While much more will be needed to continue to keep residents safe, including planning for potential COVID vaccinations in 2021, this partnership has highlighted the positive, creative role that AAAs and housing providers can play during this pandemic.

Sean WalshContributor Sean Walsh supervises Building-based Case Management at Aging and Disability Services, including 12 case managers assigned to Seattle Housing Authority properties. In addition to outreach, information, referrals, supportive counseling, and other direct client services, the case managers provide training for building management on topics such as domestic violence, substance abuse, disability, aging, client assessment and evaluation, and how to handle difficult client situations.

This article originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of AgeWise King County.