Residents of all licensed assisted living and nursing homes in the 41 counties of the north half of Mississippi will have a brighter holiday, thanks to opportunities to see and speak with family and friends via video call like Zoom from their care facilities.

In an announcement in Pontotoc Wednesday, Robert G. “Bob” Anderson, Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, said that, beginning this week, 400 Chromebooks® will be distributed to care facilities through a $100,000-plus grant to Area on Aging programs. The programs will be administered by planning and development districts in the Northern half of Mississippi, including Three Rivers, North Delta, South Delta, Northeast, North Central, and Golden Triangle Planning and Development Districts. Funding from the Mississippi Department of Human Services is directed through the Mississippi Access to Care (MAC) program, which is administered in 41 counties by Three Rivers and South Delta PDD.

Three Rivers ombudsman Cindy Collums, who coordinates federal and state programs offered through care facilities, noted that at the onslaught of COVID-19, those facilities were experiencing extremely high cost of staff and personal care equipment. As a result, facilities were allowing residents to use staffs’ personal smart phones to make video calls with friends and family. This practice created two issues: resident complaints of small screens on phones and facility concerns with contamination.

As a result, Three Rivers MAC Division Director Bill Renick drew from the resources of MAC supplemental funding due to COVID-19 to explore innovative services through technology to allow nursing home/long term care patients to communicate with family and friends and increase social engagement and connectedness.

“Once again, partnerships at the federal, state and local levels will benefit care home residents,” Anderson said. “This effort will help residents to have a brighter holiday by video chatting with families and MDHS is pleased to be part of the process of making the lives of residents more hopeful.”

The care facilities’ staffs on the local level will assist residents and work to assure as many opportunities as possible.