Updates for People Supported, Families, & AHRC NYC Staff
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
- 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.