OLYMPIA - The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services is using $1.3 million in CARES Act funding to contract with temporary nursing agencies to provide six Rapid Response Crisis Staffing teams that will be deployed to long-term care facilities facing staffing shortages during the pandemic. More than 400 of the state’s roughly 4,100 facilities are currently reporting active cases among residents or staff.

“As COVID-19 cases spike across Washington state, many long-term care and developmental disabilities facilities and agencies, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities, are struggling to maintain staffing levels,” said DSHS Secretary Cheryl Strange. “This program will provide qualified staffing support to facilities that experience a shortage, and offer a much-needed break to health care workers who have been on the frontline for months.”

Facility staff exposed to the virus are required to quarantine, usually without notice, and many facilities struggle to fill the staffing gaps. Residents at facilities often depend on the expertise and care provided by health care workers. This program helps ensure that resident’s care will continue even if permanent staffing is not available due to the impacts of COVID-19. The six Rapid Response Crisis Staffing teams will be comprised of Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants who can provide immediate, short-term nursing and aide support at no cost to the facilities or agencies.

“With the increasing virus activity across the state, we saw a need to have emergency teams available to address staffing shortages in long-term care facilities,” said Aging and Long-Term Support Administration Assistant Secretary Bill Moss. “There are a number of facilities struggling to maintain staffing, and we anticipate this problem will get worse during this surge. These teams will help provide the care that people in these facilities need in this crisis.”

The Rapid Response teams will be located in counties with the highest need based on virus reporting, but can be deployed to facilities and agencies throughout the state. Currently, those are King, Pierce, Snohomish, Clark, Yakima and Spokane counties. In the event the data shows a need for an additional Rapid Response Team in an area or in other areas, these teams may be repositioned to respond to that need.

The program is funded by the CARES Act and has been initially authorized for one month, but may be extended if the need continues. As requests come in from facilities for short-term nursing support, DSHS will work with Rapid Response Teams to triage requests based on the level of risk to resident safety and the Rapid Response Team’s ability to meet that need.