A coalition representing long-term care facilities has announced a new initiative to connect long-term care operators to Medical Reserve Corps, or MRC, volunteers for help in administering monoclonal antibody infusions to residents who contract COVID-19.

The volunteer staffing initiative is part of the Long-Term Care Infusion Support Activity, or LISA. It offers long-term care administrators step-by-step instructions for engaging with local MRC units and partners, and online training for MRC volunteers, said the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, a coalition member, on Tuesday. 

The LISA program was designed through a six-member industry coalition to help support the efforts of getting monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 to the people who need it most, AHCA/NCAL said. “Our residents are most vulnerable to this virus, and it is critical we provide help in any way we can to keep them safe from COVID.”

Although vaccines are tied to a welcome drop in facility COVID-19 cases, it is clear that residents will remain at risk from the disease. Antibody infusion has shown 80% effectiveness in preventing hospitalizations in skilled nursing and assisted living trials, sparking widespread optimism that it can keep the disease in check. 

So far, most clinical uptake of the drugs has been in assisted living. A sample of Medicare claims by consulting firm Avalere found that these communities account for 67% of monoclonal antibodies delivered.

One operator, Country Meadows Retirement Communities, had administered mAb treatments to more than 100 residents — mostly assisted living, personal care and independent living residents — from late December to mid-February, with a 97% success rate. The community is accessing monoclonal antibody treatments in two ways: through its partnership with Penn State Health and through its long-term care pharmacy. Country Meadows Medical Director John Hopkins, D.O., called it “game-changing medication.”

As of mid-February, approximately 1,500 skilled nursing facilities had administered one dose as well, estimates Chad Worz, PharmD, CEO of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, whose organization has tracked infusions.

Access to the drugs has improved since they were approved for emergency use against COVID-19 in November. An initiative by the Department of Health and Human Services is set up to funnel the infusion product directly to pharmacies serving long-term care facilities. That project successfully has delivered product to all willing long-term care pharmacies.

But not all facilities have been able to take advantage of it.

“[E]ven with ready access to monoclonal antibodies, many nursing homes and assisted living communities are unable to administer these potentially life-saving treatments due to limited availability of qualified staff and overwhelming clinical demands,” AHCA/NCAL said.

In some cases, pharmacies stepped in with their own personnel, or third-party nurses were hired, added Worz. “But some facilities strained or simply were not able to support it.” 

That’s where the MRC volunteers can help, the coalition said. Most potential LISA volunteers are expected to be nurses with active state licenses, and other healthcare providers for whom infusion is in the scope of practice. 

Worz said: “I think [the MRC program] is a good opportunity for those long-term care facilities who have struggled with staffing to be able to bring the monoclonal antibody treatments in. Ultimately, this expands access, and whether you are talking about the vaccine or the monoclonal antibody therapies, access is critical.”

“With supplemental programs like the Medical Reserve Corps and all the resources that are available, we would expect no LTC facility would be in a position where they can’t access or administer the therapy,” he said.

The MRC was created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a way to organize, credential, and activate volunteer responders for community and national public health emergencies, under the auspices of HHS. There are about 200,000 volunteers in roughly 800 community-based units throughout the United States and its territories, according to the agency.

Local MRC units vary widely in terms of capacity, capabilities, personnel, and competing priorities, AHCA/NCAL noted.

Steps for activating the program through LISA can be found here.