Important Letter 3/27/2020

Dear Family and Friends of Benhaven,

Hello to all of you. We are each facing the impact and implications of the COVID 19 on a daily basis. I know many of you have children home from school, loved ones who may be temporarily unemployed, and concerns for your own health and that of your family. We appreciate the stress this uncertainty causes and hope we can remain supportive of all of our participants and their families.

I wanted to reach out to give you a sense of how we are handling this current situation. We are trying to make the best decisions possible for all concerned while heeding direction from the CDC, CT Public Health, and the state agencies that fund us. We are grateful for the direction and advice we receive from our Medical Director, Dr. Avni-Singer. I know your Program Director or their Managers have been in touch with many of you since this crisis started to discuss specific program changes and answer your individual questions.

The School and the Academy closed effective March 16th. The Directors with their teachers and instructional aides have designed alternative methods to continue to provide learning opportunities remotely to help our students achieve the educational goals in each student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Last week was spent preparing to instruct students while at home using technology and developing strategies for parents to help their children continue their learning remotely. This week our dedicated staff have started to implement this remote learning. We sent many students home with electronic devices and prepared our staff with the technology they needed. Staff at the School and Academy continue to work with most work being done remotely. I am amazed at everyone’s creativity and dedication. We hope if you have a child in the Academy or School you are finding the teacher’s guidance helpful. We are trying to be responsive to your child’s needs while recognizing that you as the parent have increasing responsibilities and burdens as most of us work from home and try to balance work and family responsibilities. Please reach out to our educational staff if we can be of further assistance.

The Career and Transition Program continues to operate with some individuals still being supported at their job site and others participating in small group activities at the program site in Wallingford. Staff may also work with participants in their homes as appropriate. Some of our program participants have been told to not report to their jobs for now. We are planning alternative activities for them as much as possible.

Individual and Family Support (IFS) and Children’s Behavioral Services (CBS) are continuing services for those individuals and families who want the in-home support to continue. CBS is using tele-health techniques for the BCBA who works with you to stay involved and give parents ongoing guidance. Where it is appropriate the behaviorists and staff in IFS are also connecting to individuals remotely. The Family Support Specialists and Director are reviewing each individual’s situation to decide how best to continue support. Where it is safe for staff, and the individual and family staff will work directly with your son or daughter. This is often most important for adults who live on their own. Many of their families are able to help which is great. For now, what we do with individuals will focus on what is most essential for health and safety. Our concern remains for the welfare of both the people we support and our staff.

Residential Services continues to operate our eight group homes. To date our staff are generally healthy as are our residents. School staff are providing some remote educational instruction to the residential students who live at Johnson and Nakash. The drivers are still available to help get everyone out for healthy outdoor activities and necessary shopping. The residents cannot have visitors in an effort to reduce exposure. If any family feels more comfortable taking their son home during this health emergency you certainly can. However we have been directed by the Department of Developmental Services  (DDS) that if someone goes home to be with their family they cannot return to the group home until the Governor directs services to return to normal. We cannot risk someone returning to their residence and infecting their housemates or their staff.

Right now we are blessed to have healthy staff and healthy program participants. We follow all of the guidelines for social-distancing as appropriate, and for hand washing. Staff are asked a series of questions before working in the residences or family homes to make sure they are well and have not been recently exposed to the COVID 19. Residential Services has developed a continuity of operations plan to guide us in this emergency situation. We have needed safety equipment; have addressed changes we may need to make in staff coverage; changed activities so residents are mostly home or outdoors; and are identifying staff from other programs who have the necessary training to work in the residences if needed at a future time when some of our residential staff may fall ill or be required to self-quarantine.

 For the latest information about keeping yourself or your family safe go to cdc.gov/coronavirus. For resources and information about Connecticut’s response visit ct.gov/coronavirus. DDS has information for families as well. Use https://portal.ct.gov/DDS. Go to the following section:

COVID-19 Updates for Individuals and Families

We have a new email for staff and families to use if you have any questions that Benhaven needs to answer for you. I will monitor this email address and respond to all emails I receive. The email address is:

continuedoperations@benhaven.org

This is the most current information I have. Please realize that directions change frequently. I will do my best to keep all families informed as some of the decisions we have already made may need to be changed. Please reach out at any time to your school director, program director or residential director. They often have the most relevant information for their specific program and can readily address your concerns.

I want to close by letting you know what an incredible workforce Benhaven has. The Directors are working tirelessly to provide leadership to their staff and to keep our operations running using flexibility, resourcefulness and experience. Our employees have been wonderful as they juggle personal and family responsibility with their deep commitment to your children and relatives. We are able to maintain employment for all but a few of our staff. We are asking them to do more at a time when they also have personal concerns and issues to address. We hope you are experiencing their dedication.

Stay well,
Kathryn du Pree

March 27, 2020


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Benhaven

187 Half Mile Road
North Haven, CT 06473

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tel (203) 239.6425
fax (203) 239.1318