Texas nursing home residents may soon be Zooming with the rest of us.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is providing $3.6 million in funding for nursing facilities to purchase tablets, webcams and headphones to help keep residents connected with their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nursing facility providers are encouraged to submit applications to HHSC to receive up to $3,000 in federal funding per facility for purchasing the devices.
“This program will help Texans in nursing homes stay connected to their loved ones while protecting the health and safety of our most vulnerable populations,” said Gov. Greg Abbott. “As we continue to respond to COVID-19 and mitigate the spread of this virus, we are committed to developing effective strategies that protect Texans while keeping them connected.”
“Staying connected to families and friends is vitally important to Texans who live in nursing facilities during this unprecedented situation,” said David Kostroun, deputy executive commissioner for HHSC’s Regulatory Services Division. “We want facilities to know this option can help connect residents to their loved ones virtually, while still protecting everyone’s health and safety.”
HHSC is allocating Civil Money Penalty funds for this project. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services imposes CMPs against Medicare- or Medicaid-certified nursing facilities found out of compliance with federal requirements. CMP funds can be used for projects and activities that benefit nursing facility residents by improving their quality of care or quality of life.
Any Texas nursing facility can apply for this funding. Purchased devices must be cleaned and disinfected between every use.
HHSC also has encouraged facilities to implement a communication plan to help families, residents and others stay informed and connected, noting they are legally obligated to maintain privacy and protections guaranteed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.