Ellenhorn COVID-19 Update and Plan

COVID-19 Update and Plan

The impact of the coronavirus on the world is evolving daily. In response, Ellenhorn is committed to evaluating what our clients, families and staff need each day. Accordingly, we continue to update this section of our website as we modify our plans depending on the shifts and changes in the pandemic and the public health policies responding to it.

We are committed to continuing to provide high-quality care to our clients while keeping them as safe as possible from transmission of the virus. The model we use for psychiatric treatment at Ellenhorn is in synch with the best ways to respond to public health crises: a model that balances significant long-term plans with the understanding that crises always generate unforeseen effects, and that teams must be ready to respond with ad hoc, immediate innovations. Our staff and leadership meet daily to develop creative and proactive ways to serve our clients while we all adapt to new ways of doing things that help keep our clients and our larger communities and neighborhoods safe. The current crisis calls for significant organizational agility, and we are well-prepared for that challenge.

As a community-based model serving most of our clients outside office settings, and as a model designed for individualized care, we are built, in many ways, for this kind of crisis, and especially for social distancing. While we do have two residential programs in the Boston area that serve a maximum of 15 clients, the vast majority of our clients live in their own homes. This gives them the opportunity to control their social distancing and to self-quarantine if need be. We offer only a few groups at Ellenhorn, instead focusing clinical care on individual interactions between our teams and our clients. We are thus able to suspend group treatment or move group treatment to virtual platforms, without a significantly detrimental effect on clinical care.

Despite these important attributes of our model, and as is the case whenever services are provided during an emergency, we aren’t able to conduct treatment as efficiently or even as effectively as during normal times. We have a responsibility to our clients and to the society at large to limit the frequency of our staff’s social contacts. Therefore, as the plan below indicates, much of our current interaction with clients will be conducted virtually.

Our central goal right now is to support our clients in maintaining their psychiatric stability while protecting them as much as possible from the current serious health hazards in their communities. We are confident we can do this. Of course, we remain completely committed to helping our clients achieve the therapeutic goals we and they were pursuing together before the crisis: psychiatric recovery, therapeutic change, growth and self-sufficiency. However, our main treatment goal right now is their psychiatric stability and safety. That’s a change for us. “Maintenance”—just keeping things stable, without a lot of expectations about growth—has never been a goal at Ellenhorn, and one day soon it will no longer be so. We believe that our clients are all on course to magnificent change, and our aim is to work with them as they rebuild lives of depth, meaning and purpose. We also believe they will continue to grow during this crisis. That growth will come about more easily if we help them focus on immediate needs, and how to make it through this period safely. Their current experience, in other words, is not that different from that of the rest of us, yet it is hampered by significant psychiatric barriers. Safety, continuity, security, and calm are the targets right now.

Below are the policies we’ve implemented so far, knowing that more will come as we nimbly respond to the changing face of the pandemic.

Client education and individual safety plans. We have met with every client in the program, educating them on appropriate hygiene, and developing plans for how they can connect with their team, and plans for appropriate actions in the event they become ill.

Travel. We have cancelled all non-essential work travel and are encouraging our clients not to travel at this time. Clients who need to travel for essential reasons are required to ask for permission to do so and will be fully screened when they return.

Operations and clinical team meetings. All staff-to-staff meetings are conducted by phone or video conference.

Meetings with clients. We are conducting all routine clinical meetings via phone or video. We are only offering face-to-face meetings when absolutely essential.

Therapeutic groups. Face-to-face groups have been cancelled until further notice. We are providing virtual groups to help our clients to stay connected.

Staff travel to clients. When staff meet with clients face to face, staff are using their own cars or a transportation service like Lyft or Uber (if using these services, staff fully sanitize the car before entering). Staff are not using public transportation to and from work.

The Brackett House, our residence in Boston, remains fully operational with certain changes and restrictions in place to maximize the safety and health of clients and staff during this period.

We are speaking on an ongoing basis with Brackett House clients and staff about the evolving situation concerning the coronavirus, and about our mandatory safety efforts within the house. Everyone is on board and pulling together as a caring community.

Food Service. We have eliminated buffet-style meals and snacks.

Group Activities. These are suspended.

Self-quarantine suites. For clients living in the Brackett and Annex residences, we’ve created three individual suites in case a client contracts or shows symptoms of the virus. Each suite is equipped with a bathroom and separate sanitation room, as well as fully equipped disposable protective gear and clothing for staff.

Residential Day Services. We typically offer access to the Bracket House to Ellenhorn clients who live in their own apartments. This residential day service is on hold for the time being in order to limit the number of visitors in and out of the Brackett House.

Cleaning During the Shift. All surfaces are cleaned with disinfectant three times during each eight-hour shift.

Use of Bathrooms. We are strongly discouraging clients from using the public bathrooms in our building, asking that they use the bathrooms in their rooms.

Health Checks. Staff: Staff arriving for work each day have their temperature checked by thermometer. If their temperature is over 100.4, they are sent home. They also complete a screening questionnaire that’s reviewed by supervisory staff for red flags.Clients: Clients’ temperatures are being checked by staff with a thermometer once a day. If a client has a temperature of 100.4 or above, medical staff is immediately contacted and will assess for quarantine. Clients also fill out a screening questionnaire daily.

Exposure Advisory. Any staff member, client or visitor who has been exposed to persons confirmed or suspected of having contracted COVID-19, or who lives with someone who has, is assessed the same way as clients with high temperatures.

Visitors. We are presently not allowing visitors to the Brackett House.

Clients Visiting People Outside of Program. Bracket House clients are currently prohibited from visiting individuals outside the house.

Sharing and Communicating with our Colleague Programs

We are in regular communication with a consortium of mental health programs, sharing all information with each other regarding the safest response to the virus. The current consensus is to plan each step of the way, with known contingency plans at hand. This is especially pertinent in the event a client becomes infected with COVID-19 or is suspected of infection based on exposure and symptoms. Guidance from the CDC and knowledge of the protocols of other private companies are helping us determine the best course of action for every possible scenario. We’re confident that we are ready if someone within the Ellenhorn community is diagnosed or exposed. We will share these plans with you in an upcoming email.

COVID-19 is affecting all of us in some way. It can be frustrating and frightening, but we at Ellenhorn will continue to work together closely and to provide the most seamless treatment. Every one of us entered this field with the purpose of helping others. We are committed to finding innovative and creative ways to maintain that purpose during this time of crisis, while minimizing any potential health dangers to our clients, staff and communities.

For more detailed information on our philosophy and our approach to the crisis, you might want to listen to this podcast with Dr. Ellenhorn: Click here