LATAN is actively engaged with EMDAC (Emergency Medical, Disability and Aging Coalition) in coordination of Emergency Response services. In March 2020, EMDAC, which comprised of five core members including the Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), convened to address immediate COVID-19 issues. Like during other emergencies, EMDAC activated state agencies to focus on challenges, such as mental health and social isolation, faced by older adults and those living in care facilities. Each stakeholder discussed solutions, received status updates from group homes, nursing facilities, and those receiving home health. LATAN provided training to the Governor's Office of Elderly Affairs' Ombudsman Program Coordinators, the Caddo ADRC and the Office of Citizens with Developmental Disabilities’ Support Coordinators under the same topic and focus area: the use of technology to combat social isolation and to give community-based health care workers access to the people they served while keeping everyone healthy and safe. LATAN’s training covered resources to access the internet (hotspots & tablets) and other communication devices that would support teletherapy, remote connections with family, as well as solutions that would allow nursing and other care facility residents anonymous access to contact their Ombudsman. To complicate matters, 3 hurricanes affected Louisiana, resulting in over 11,000 individuals and families sheltered in hotels, who may have lost their necessary DME or AT. LATAN, FEMA, the Red Cross, and others collaborated to identify needs and make deliveries to individuals with disabilities or aging over several months.
Although LATAN has been in operation in Louisiana for 29 years, there are many state agencies and community-based organizations that still do not know about the AT program and it’s benefits. Given the number of years in operation, some institutional knowledge does not necessarily transfer to new employees once people retire. The pandemic provided an opportunity to raise awareness of AT and LATAN among agencies serving the same population- Louisiana residents of all ages with disabilities or functional limitations. In Louisiana, planning for weather emergencies is commonplace. Throughout the pandemic, it became a reality that there are hundreds of thousands of people who do not have access to the internet. While more and more technologies become mainstream, there will be an access issue because those technologies cannot sustain without internet or power. One of the devices available for loan at LATAN is the portable, solar-powered battery but no one wanted to take borrow it, even though they did not have electricity for weeks. Ultimately, LATAN learned that sometimes technology is scary and just because it is available does not mean that it will readily be utilized. More training on and preparation with communication and life-sustaining technologies is needed prior to the emergency.