News Releases

News Releases

DHEC Promotes COVID-19 Grant Opportunity for Virtually Connecting Nursing Home Residents with Loved Ones

July 2, 2020


COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is proud to support the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) COVID-19 Communicative Technology grant opportunity. The federal funding supports virtual communication devices for safely connecting nursing home residents with their loved ones during this time. 

“The COVID-19 Communicative Technology opportunity has been a great success and is something that will directly improve the quality of life for residents and reduce feelings of isolation,” said Nick Ruden, the State CMS Funding Coordinator for DHEC. “The benefits of this funding cannot be underestimated as deep connections and emotional enrichment are pillars of strength for these residents while visitor restriction safety measures are in place. We highly encourage our nursing homes to take advantage of this impactful federal funding opportunity.” 

South Carolina, like many states, currently has visitation restrictions in place at long-term care facilities in order to help protect the elderly individuals who reside at these facilities and are at high-risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19. The CMS COVID-19 Communicative Technology grant provides up to $3,000 in funding for nursing homes to purchase tablets, tripods and accessories that virtually connect residents with their friends and family. To date, 91 nursing homes in the state have been approved for the grant funding. 

DHEC helps eligible nursing homes complete the application process for the COVID-19 Communicative Technology grant and the agency works with CMS to review and approve requests. Per CMS guidelines, the devices can be shared between seven to ten residents and nursing home staff must disinfect the devices between every use.

“COVID-19 has absolutely impacted the quality of life of residents living in our nation’s nursing homes,” said Gwen Thompson, DHEC Director of Healthcare Quality. “Adaptive computer technology is one mechanism to help residents stay engaged with family and friends, and it stems feelings of isolation, depression, and loneliness. The COVID-19 Communication Technology grants support telehealth and provide an additional level of assistance to residents, clinicians and family members.”

Lexington Medical Center Extended Care is one of the 91 nursing homes to take advantage of the grant opportunity and purchased two iPads and three iN2L tablets. According to Debbie Bouknight, Lexington’s Life Enrichment Director, the nursing home was overwhelmed and has averaged 700 calls per month on the devices.

“Without this COVID-19 communicative grant funding and the opportunity for communities to purchase needed devices, our residents might not have the opportunity to see their family nor would their family see them, which could be detrimental to everyone,” Bouknight said. “It is both heartwarming and sometimes heart-wrenching, but so worth it to see the interactions happen. I feel we would see far more decline in our residents’ physical and emotional well-being if they did not have these video visit opportunities.”

DHEC encourages nursing homes to apply for the COVID-19 Communicative Technology grant and to reach out to DHEC’s Healthcare Quality staff at for assistance. More information about the grant opportunity is available here.



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