This editorial was published by the News Tribune of Tacoma.
The Tacoma Area Coalition of Individuals with Disabilities, better known as TACID, is one of the city’s unsung treasures. Since 1980, it has faithfully carried out its mission to promote the independence of people with disabilities, helping thousands of Pierce County residents with self-sufficiency programs and easy access to a spectrum of services.
Like most disability service providers, TACID shut its doors in March and never reopened.
Since the pandemic hit, approximately 2,500 people, many with chronic physical and cognitive disabilities and behavioral health issues, have gone without services they count on, such as weekly social interaction, exercise and peer support.
Even when businesses began to reopen, TACID did not. Many participants who rely on the day center — known to the regulars as “Room Two” — fall under the category of “at-risk adults,” so the facility stayed closed as a public health precaution.
As a result, TACID is being deprived of a big chunk of funding.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money it received back in June has almost run out. Executive Director Nola Renz says if TACID doesn’t receive a second wave of relief money soon, hard decisions will be made in the next month.
The community needs to make noise and remind both public and private entities they can’t forget people with disabilities. When this pandemic is over, these friends need to go back to “Room Two.”
It’s shameful that TACID has fallen through the funding cracks. Out of the $158 million Pierce County received from the CARES Act, Renz told a member of the Editorial Board TACID only received $12,000.
According to the county’s dashboard of CARES Act expenditures, transportation and other services for the disabled and elderly populations received almost $2.7 million and those funds have been spread thin. They’ve provided food, transportation vouchers, some adaptive recreation programming and financial support for 17 senior centers.
Renz says part of the problem is that TACID is in a category unto itself. Although it serves Pierce County veterans and helps improve behavioral health for thousands of residents through peer mentoring and support groups, it doesn’t fall under the heading of veterans services or behavioral health.
TACID also helps countless folks improve business skills, connect with employers and sometimes find jobs, but it doesn’t fit in the category of “Workforce Training.”
Health officials have reams of data expounding on the therapeutic value of social interaction, but how do you put a price on friendship? It’s clear from the lack of funding that government doesn’t prioritize a place where well-earned high-fives happen every day.
TACID has been closed for more than nine months. Staff and volunteers do their best to keep in touch with regular participants through weekly check-in calls and organized Zoom chats for the people who have access and ability. But Renz says they’ve lost touch with many of the regulars.
She worries about the impact of isolation on participants. “A lot of people don’t have friends or family outside of TACID. We’re it.”
As of November, the coalition had provided over 4,222 services in 2020, but staff members still report that too many Room Two participants are sitting idle for hours. It’s why TACID is ramping up virtual activities and expanding wellness activities. ...
It’s important to note that nobody is turned away; no one who enters the building has to prove they have a disability or present with a diagnosis. In a world that has been at best indifferent to people with disabilities, and at worst hostile, TACID opens its doors and says: “Come on in.”
Now it’s up to Pierce County’s public and private sectors to make sure those doors stay open.