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.
- 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 curriculum, 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 have also worked on ensuring that people supported have access to technology and are able to participate in the services.
Employment and Business Services:
- Through 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, 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; have 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 are 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 with 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.
Make a Difference for People with Disabilities
Donate to the COVID-19 Relief Fund
We are working nonstop to attend to the needs of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Your gift to the COVID-19 Relief Fund helps to purchase personal protective equipment, provide expanded medical and mental health services, increase our technical capacity, and so much more.
Please help us get through this unprecedented crisis. We will persevere and will meet these challenges, together.
Previously-published updates can be accessed below:
June 25, 2020 Update:
A Message to Families, People Supported, and AHRC New York City Staff
Family Visitation at AHRC New York City Certified Residences
Phase 1 Policies and Procedures as of June 25th, 2020
AHRC New York City will begin to allow visits at our homes, effective Saturday, June 27th, 2020, following specific guidelines as mandated by the Office for People with Development Disabilities (OPWDD). To ensure that we continue to minimize the spread of COVID-19, family members and advocates allowed to visit at this time must adhere to the visitation guidelines in OPWDD certified residences. These guidelines are for in-home visitation only; OPWDD is not permitting people we support to leave certified residences for community outings or off-site visits with family outside the supervision of residential staff.
AHRC New York City has consistently adhered to the guidance of OPWDD, the New York City and New York State Departments of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control. All precautions were put in place to protect the health and safety of the people we support and our employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. To continue to mitigate the risk of viral transmission, family visitation in certified residences will be phased in over the next four weeks, depending on the continued reduction in the incidence of COVID-19.
Will include outdoor visits with people who are able to understand and comply with social distancing, with or without staff supports.
Will include visitations inside homes for people supported who are able to understand and comply with social distancing with staff supports, and who do not have any medical conditions that place them at a greater risk of contracting or experiencing complications from COVID-19.
Phase 1 will begin on June 27th, 2020. Phase 2 will begin on July 11th, 2020. Phases 1 and 2 are subject to change based upon monitoring of COVID-19 exposure within AHRC New York City and within the five boroughs of New York City. This policy will also be adjusted based upon any change in requirements imposed by OPWDD.
Visitation during Phase 1 will follow the protocols below. Policies and protocols for Phase 2 are forthcoming and depend on the successful implementation of Phase 1.
Please note that no visitation will be permitted in residences under quarantine for COVID-19
PRIOR TO THE VISIT
- Family members or advocates are required to contact the Manager or Assistant Manager of the residence at least 24-hours in advance to schedule a day/time to visit. This is required to ensure that multiple visitors are not scheduled on the same day/time, and to allow for cleaning and sanitization of visitor areas.
- A maximum of two visitors from the same family may visit at one time. Visitors must be 18 years of age r older.
- Visitors will be limited to one hourly visit per week to ensure that all families have an opportunity to visit each week. Families may request additional time if the schedule is not filled.
- Outside visits will take place weather permitting and should ideally be planned for days when the weather is expected to be conducive to sitting on porches, decks, or in yards or green spaces.
- All people supported and visitors will be required to wear masks, gloves, and maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet.
ARRIVING AT THE RESIDENCE
- Arriving visitors should ring the doorbell and will receive a health screening at the doorway. The residence staff will take the visitor’s temperature and complete the required COVID-19 screening questions. Visitor health screening information will be documented in the log used to record the same information for staff.
- If a visitor has a fever or answers “yes” to any of the screening questions, he or she will not be permitted to continue the visit and will be asked to leave the residence. The visitor will not be able to be reconsidered for visitation until he or she is symptom-free for at least 72 hours.
- If a family member or advocate has a pre-existing condition that results in a COVID-like symptom (e.g., consistent cough, sneezing, or sore throat from seasonal allergies), he or she is encouraged to visit a medical provider to obtain a note to indicate he or she is not experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19.
- After the visitor has successfully completed the health screening, he or she will be asked to wait outside until the residence staff can bring the family member outside. All visits during Phase 1 will take place outside the residence in green space, yards, or on porches or decks.
DURING THE VISIT
- Visitors and people supported are required to wear face masks and gloves, provided by AHRC New York City for the duration of the visit. Face masks are required to be worn properly, fully covering the nose and mouth.
- Social distancing of at least 6 feet will be observed throughout the visit. Unfortunately, kissing, hugging, or other physical contact between loved ones is not allowed at this time.
- Visitors will be asked to apply hand sanitizer at the beginning of the visit.
- Food or beverages cannot be consumed during the visit, as eating and drinking require removal of face masks.
- At the end of the visit, the person supported is required to apply hand sanitizer before re-entering the residence. Upon reentry to the residence the person supported will be encouraged to thoroughly wash their hands and properly dispose of his or her mask and gloves.
- Staff are required to clean and sanitize the meeting area for each visit.
May 19, 2020 Update:
A Message to Families, People Supported, and AHRC New York City Staff
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It is hard to believe we are beginning week 9 of the pandemic and the May 15th date for reassessing the situation has come and gone. As always, AHRC New York City’s highest priority is the health and safety of ALL members of our community. We continue to closely follow the recommendations of the NYC and State Departments of Health, the CDC and OPWDD about plans for reopening. We continue to request that all readers of this publication remain vigilant in following the guidelines: wear masks and gloves whenever you are out of your home, traveling or engaging in necessary activities, and continue infection control protocol like handwashing with soap and water frequently. New York City has met 3 of the 7 health metrics that must be met prior to a phased re-opening, let’s get to 7 safely by doing this together!
Brief updates as of today:
- AHRC NYC has incurred quite a number of losses of beloved people supported, their family members, and staff. That being said, reflecting on what is happening all over the city, the number of deaths, hospitalizations, and people exhibiting COVID Like Illness (CLI) has declined greatly in recent days. That being said we are continuing to vigilantly follow all guidelines as indicated above.
- AHRC NYC’s Article 16 Clinic is currently providing individual and family counseling, speech services, and psychosocial evaluations via telehealth. To make a referral or learn more about these services please call 212-780- 4491 or email Referrals@ahrcnyc.org.
- Testing – Understanding the importance of testing as a public health initiative, AHRC NYC, working in partnership with several local medical centers, will be offering antibody and virus testing in the not too distant future for individuals supported and staff through Quest, CityMD, and directly through OPWDD. Details to be released shortly.
- AHRC NYC is proud to announce that our Chief Executive Officer, Marco Damiani, has been appointed to the Mayor’s Sector Advisory Council on Public Health and Healthcare. The Council’s goal is to reopen our City with strength and strategy. Having him represent our field on the Council is a very important statement about the value of our sector in restarting the economy and city life and will ensure that real-world guidance makes sense and keeps people safe. Click here to read more about this.
- The week of May 4th was both Nurse Appreciation Week and Teacher Appreciation Week. See excerpts from Marco Damiani’s letters to our nurses and letters to our teachers. These sentiments are shared by all of us.
To our nurses excerpt:
…Our nursing team is the lifeblood of our pandemic response and without question, your work is at the very essence why we exist – to support, protect, and empower the most vulnerable among us. How many times nowadays can we use the word “heroic”? I will do myself one better, for you, our nurses: Behavior that is bold or dramatic, especially unexpectedly so.
That is the definition of “hero”. But really, what is unexpected about your response? Nothing. This is who you are, your very nature. And it is why your colleagues are so fortunate to have you here with us.
In the throes of this pandemic, you have gone wildly beyond the basics of the job. You are literally saving lives.
As an organization, we have counted on your wise counsel, your abundance of medical knowledge, your no-nonsense get-the-job-done attitude, your caring nature, and perhaps, most importantly, your humanity…
To our teachers excerpt:
…To quote Mr. Rogers, “Anyone who does anything to help a child in his [her] life is a hero to me.”
In the throes of this pandemic, you have gone beyond the basics of the job. You are all heroes.
As an organization, we have counted on your abilities, your knowledge, your spirit of fun and creativity, and most importantly, your humanity. Your understanding of the children you work with and their families, and your willingness to go the extra mile to assist them during this time of great need is a centerpiece of our daily battle with COVID-19.
John Steinbeck said, “Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.’ Your actions during the last two months have without question been demonstrations of the human mind and spirit…
- On a happy note, AHRC New York City’s Our Broadway group continues to meet virtually in spite of the Coronavirus and to entertain themselves and us! They just Keep Dancing! (Note the images were shot pre-pandemic.) Click here to check them out.
Realizing that the needs of families extend beyond service delivery and continue to grow, families can refer to AHRC NYC’s Covid-19 Resource Guide which we continuously update to provide families with the resources they need.
May 05, 2020 Update:
A Message to AHRC New York City Staff
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We are now two months into our COVID-19 response. While we have suffered heartbreaking losses and have struggled through many challenges, our staff’s extraordinary devotion, caring and tireless efforts to support people with disabilities, their families, and each other, has been unprecedented.
As we continue to navigate the weeks ahead, let’s pause and celebrate the enormous power of team diversity. We are all different in so many ways, but these differences are grounded in the recognition that we share a common purpose. In our work with people with disabilities, this is one of the most essential and optimistic ways of embracing our common humanity. Disability can mean “different”, but we all know it does not mean less human. Our nation’s founding premise was that of equal rights and it must always be our North Star. Doing our best to keep the people we support safe from the coronavirus is not just a programmatic or clinical effort, it is grounded in the basic human rights of the people we support.
We urge you to sign this Change.org Petition!
This petition is asking for additional and meaningful funding from the federal government. The I/DD system is supported primarily by Medicaid funding, which provides the essential services that New Yorkers with I/DD rely upon. Ours is the hardest hit state in the nation during this pandemic, which has resulted in an unprecedented revenue shortfall. As a result, these critical supports and services to people with I/DD are in jeopardy. Our great state has always been committed to providing essential services for all New Yorkers. We stand with Governor Andrew Cuomo in calling for vital federal aid and ask you to do the same to help New York uphold its responsibility to our loved ones.
So, while we cannot predict when the coronavirus crisis will truly settle down and end, we can find some comfort knowing that we are truly all in this together and, because of that, our bonds will be even further strengthened as we learn together, plan together and rebuild together.
If the response to the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that together we are truly better and can overcome unimaginable obstacles if we stay the course.
Chief Executive Officer
As of today at AHRC New York City:
- AHRC NYC schools are physically closed in keeping with the Mayor and Governor’s directive that schools not reopen this school year. That being said, our teachers and school administrators are working remotely with families, providing the children we serve with virtual opportunities that are educational, therapeutic, and fun.
- Our Day Services facilities throughout the five boroughs are physically closed. Individuals are not receiving supports on-site, but staff continue to reach out and check in with all families to offer all types of assistance and supports. For example, AHRC NYC’s Our Broadway group is meeting – singing, dancing, and acting – virtually! Art classes and studio work is continuing. And, our Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program college students are partaking in offerings at the respective colleges they attend. A parent recently sent us this note, indicating the impact that virtual supports have had on a family member: “I was so fearful that he would forget everyone or that he would feel distant or alone, and with your assistance, his connection has instead grown! I think his understanding and communication skills have actually increased!”
- AHRC NYC residences are all open and telehealth is available at every residence. In addition, Day Services are being provided to residents by staff from Day Services. We thank those staff for working in concert with their colleagues in the residences.
- While several of our residences have suffered great losses, the majority are free of the Coronavirus and Corona-like illness. Everyone who has been following our virus management procedures has contributed to limiting the spread of the virus.
- People employed through our Employment & Business Services Division (EBS), have fared the same way as people in the general population. Some people are still employed and receiving support from AHRC NYC job coaches, while some have unfortunately lost their jobs as have many other New Yorkers. Some people working on contracts cleaning FDNY facilities have been hailed as essential workers alongside the firefighters!
- A large variety of Recreation Services are being offered using Zoom and other online platforms. These sessions include yoga, arts and crafts, exercise, discussion groups about many topics of interest, and a virtual dance party on Saturday evenings.
- AHRC NYC’s Clinic is providing tele-mental health services by psychologists and social workers. These clinicians are also available to perform psychosocial evaluations.
- AHRC NYC leadership is finalizing a plan for the gradual reopening of services and the increase of staff coming into Maiden Lane and other non-programmatic spaces. Eventual restarts will be subject to guidance from the NYC and NYS Departments of Health and OPWDD (Office for People with Developmental