July 30, 2020 Update:
Dear People Supported, Families, and AHRC NYC Team Members:
Several months back when we began sending out these updates, we all knew there would be a tough road ahead for all of us. So far, that has been true. But your resilience, in concert with our fellow New Yorkers, has shone through and we are now in Phase-4 of reopening NYC. With vigilance and continued persistence, we will stay the course. There are concerns that a second wave of COVID-19 could arrive in New York City during the upcoming flu season. We are doing what we need to do to stay safe and keep all members of the AHRC NYC community safe while planning for a gradual return to service delivery and operations. As always, and as medical experts have stressed, social distancing, mask-wearing, and handwashing/infection control protocols are the new constant we must follow. Thanks to you all for your consistent vigilance with these precautions. They are making a big difference.
These last few months have been exceedingly difficult, but your ingenuity, persistence, and creativity never cease to amaze me. Wonderful things have continued to happen at AHRC NYC. Many of our team members have been renamed “miracle workers” by those who witnessed their work. Valuable, impactful, and positive things continue to take place every day.
So where are we today, almost five months to the day since the stay-at-home order was put into place in New York? Below are very helpful and informative updates on the work being done throughout AHRC NYC as well as plans for the coming months. In this unpredictable time of constant change, we are always checking and following guidance from Federal, State, and City agencies that regulate to ensure the continued safety of all.
Chief Executive Officer
AHRC New York City
- The summer session is currently in progress remotely at all of AHRC NYC’s preschools, elementary school, and the middle/high school. The majority of students are in attendance although there are a small number of parents that have opted out of their son/daughter “attending” school.” Teachers and administrators follow up with families not participating to see if other assistance is needed.
- All teachers and teacher assistants are providing a full day of instruction primarily via Zoom. Families choose to zoom into sessions with their children on their own schedules.
- Teaching staff email and mail instructional material to families and back in March delivered tablets to families in need of electronic devices as well as instruction in their use.
- Therapists are providing speech, occupational, and physical therapy virtually. The school nurses are also working remotely. Principals and teachers throughout the AHRC NYC system are virtually providing tours and screening students referred by the Department of Education (DOE) to fill vacancies left by students that transitioned out of our programs.
- On a very exciting note, a new AHRC NYC school on Staten Island will become operational in September. Despite the pandemic, the New York State Education Department gave AHRC NYC approval to open 2 preschool classes and an elementary school primarily for a student population on the autism spectrum. Staff have been hired and are virtually screening children that have been referred by the DOE. Staten Island Borough President Oddo was instrumental in opening the new school, as was, Congressman Max Rose and the Archdiocese of New York.
- Since New York State has not yet issued guidelines as to what school will look like in the fall for all children in New York, administrative staff have been busy developing several models that can safely educate children and be put into place in September. Surveys have been sent to families about their comfort level in children attending in-person, continuing to receive services virtually, utilizing a hybrid that includes both remote and in-person learning, and a variety of other options. Transportation is an issue that the DOE must grapple with that impacts all education services.
- There are vacancies in several AHRC NYC residences as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Residential team is assessing the needs of individuals currently supported and several internal transfers of people with needs for 24/7 nursing to the Bloomberg Apartments in Queens and the Dickson Goodman Apartments in Harlem, where more robust nursing services are offered, have occurred.
- Filling of vacancies other than internal transfers will require tremendous advocacy and support from our community. AHRC NYC and other providers can only screen people OPWDD deems as emergencies or in urgent need. Often, this means that a caregiver has died or is on death’s door. The state’s attempt to stop true residential planning with families needs to be transformed into a family advocacy movement. Stay tuned for information on action regarding residential placement.
- On an exciting note, knowing AHRC New York City from a “redo” of our Fisher Center in Harlem two years ago, staff from WNBC’s program George to the Rescue contacted AHRC NYC to inquire as to how we fared during the COVID pandemic. After assessing our needs, they proceeded to do a socially distanced makeover of the AHRC NYC Bloomberg Apartments lobby! Besides beautifying the lobby, the work will air on the first episode of the show in the fall. The makeover gave staff at Bloomberg who worked tirelessly during the pandemic, a greatly needed lift in spirits. The redo and filming brought wonderful excitement to the residence. Thank you, George and crew! Stay tuned for information to view the season premiere!
AHRC NYC’s overnight respite houses are still closed. As the situation evolves in New York City, we will think through how to reinvent this service so that it can safely accommodate individuals and staff and meet the respite needs of families.
- In accordance with the regulations set forth by OPWDD, Day Service facilities are not open for people supported as of yet, but AHRC NYC staff are preparing for a phased reopening by retrofitting these environments. Staff are setting up the facilities so social distancing can take place by ensuring that PPE is in place and developing plans so people can safely be supported at all locations. Staff are attempting to group people in the communities where they live so transportation will be less of an issue, small groups can be supported in their communities by staff who also live in or near these communities.
- Currently, approximately 60% of those enrolled in day services are engaged in remote programs with 40 platforms running each day. Different curricula, in a variety of areas of interest to people supported – ranging from virtual art classes, groups discussing Black Lives Matter, cooking classes, exercise classes, and discussion groups, to list a few – have been developed and are led by staff.
- Day Service staff have been working in the AHRC NYC residences since the beginning of the pandemic providing day services that would have taken place in day service facilities.
- Three weeks ago, direct service in the homes of people supported began. Many families have been requesting that staff assist their sons and daughters in their homes and within the month over 60 staff will be dispatched to work with individuals in their homes.
In addition to working with individuals, staff has been working with families of people supported in our adult programs who have been hard hit by the pandemic, attempting to assist them with their need for food and PPE, to name a few. Staff has also worked on ensuring that people supported have access to technology and are able to participate in the services.
Employment and Business Services:
- Throughout the last five months, EBS continued supporting employed people with IDD in need of support to maintain their employment. For individuals supported who were temporarily laid off or otherwise unable to participate in programs, the staff offered quality remote instruction. On a daily basis, staff provides remote services that include how to file for benefits (unemployment, SSI, Medicaid), work readiness, getting back to work, safety during COVID-19, training on job applications, and mock interviews.
- For the last six months AHRC NYC was able to offer remote services for the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) Train & Earn program; has been able to support individuals through internships-working for CENSUS 2020; remote services for Advance & Earn internships in AHRC NYC programs; and are now recruiting 75 new individuals scheduled to start in September 2020 with 25 individuals to be trained to become Certified Direct Support Professionals..
- AHRC NYC’s affirmative business, Hudson River Services (HRS), has been able to put many people supported to work during the pandemic as cleaning workers have been on the frontlines of COVID-19 and hence in high demand. There also has been a demand for expanded services – disinfecting of high-touch areas, contamination services, infection prevention, and disinfection-only services.
- Examples of new opportunities at HRS: the FDNY has added disinfection services, and we have added two additional shifts to all FDNY locations where our porters disinfect all high touch areas; Roosevelt Island Corporation added additional disinfecting services to their bus line and offices; NYCTA awarded a contract to disinfect five classes of stations; HRA requested additional services at 6 sites; DMV is receiving additional service in 6 locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens; TLC and DOT have been receiving additional disinfecting services.
Project Search, in which AHRC NYC partners, has held 6 graduations of people supported by AHRC NYC enrolled in the project in the 5 boroughs. The host or training sites hope to employ some of the graduates.
Camping and Recreation:
- AHRC NYC’s Recreation department has gone virtual – with a menu of remote programs offered all day long, all week long, including a Saturday night weekly dance partly attended by 150 -200 people supported.
- Virtual Day camp began on July 13th and will run for five weeks. Staff delivered “Camp in a Box” to families throughout the city prior to the beginning of the day camp session. The boxes contained crayons, paper, paints, and all types of supplies for those attending to use during the virtual session.
- After-school recreation is currently ongoing and takes place three days a week virtually. Additionally, staff is beginning to think through how the school holiday respite program can be executed virtually.
- Camp Anne and The Lodge are operating on a modified schedule. Small groups from AHRC NYC residences go to camp for up to two nights or are driving up for day trips where they can picnic, take a boat ride on the lake, engage in outdoor activities, and head back to New York City in the evening.
Additionally, the two camps are entertaining small family respite groups who use the camps as a base to explore the beautiful Berkshires and Catskill mountain areas. Staff also work with the children with I/DD thereby giving families a few hours of respite a day. All of the groups will continue through summer and early September.
- AHRC NYC’s community habilitation program has been in full swing during the pandemic. There has been a gradual but steady upward trend in the use of this service with 73% of those served prior to COVID-19, receiving face-to-face services by the end of June. Staff have been well-trained and constantly equipped with PPE. As families have gone back to work, there have been many requests for increased community habilitation hours that we have accommodated as much as possible.
- As regards in-home respite, 60% of the families receiving services prior to COVID are currently receiving respite services for several hours a week.
- There has been continuous hiring and training of new staff throughout the pandemic as our need for staff is constant.
- For the families that have decided they did not want in-home services at this time, virtual programming to engage their family member for several hours a day have been provided.
Additionally, for individuals supported that live independently, staff members have gone out of their way to assist these people by providing them with PPE and helping them with grocery shopping and appointments if necessary.
- Individual and family therapies
- Psychosocial evaluations
- Administering of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales
- Speech therapy
- Physical therapy that can be provided virtually
- In-person services are slowly beginning with the administration of IQ and cognitive testing as well as therapy for some individuals who are in great need of therapy and cannot benefit from remote sessions. In-person services will be expanded as our regulatory agencies provide guidelines and safety factors can be mitigated.
- Family Support Services, as well as AHRC NYC’s Sobriety Program, including referral to substance abuse services, have been ongoing through the pandemic via remote sessions on Zoom and other platforms.
We are all extremely excited about the construction of an entirely new clinic space on the 10th floor of our headquarters at Maiden Lane. It will be a state-of-the-art, welcoming space for patients, families, caregivers, and clinicians who can work together to improve lives. We look forward to a grand opening later this fall.