Horizons: Safety, Compassion, and Innovation
Life since COVID-19 hit Colorado in mid-March has been challenging, full of uncertainty, and anything but normal. At Horizons, we have been following strict guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as specific regulations mandated by the Colorado Department of Health & Environment and the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing. In doing so, we have not only prioritized the health and safety of individuals with developmental delays and cognitive disabilities who are considered to be vulnerable populations, we have also re-created service delivery models in order to offer the most compassionate, innovative, and person-centered care possible.
At the onset of the pandemic, some of our Medicaid funded programs were fully suspended while others were reinforced significantly. We could no longer provide Transportation, Day Program, Vocational, and Supported Living Services for adults. Policies, protocols, and related liabilities in our Comprehensive Residential program increased substantially and changed frequently. Our Early Intervention program for children ages birth to three transitioned to telehealth using virtual platforms for evaluations and occupational and speech therapy sessions. We witnessed our Family Support families address abruptly altered routines that affected the well-being of the entire family unit.
Along with the people enrolled in our programs, some of those most affected by COVID-19 have been Horizons’ Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). DSPs have always been caretakers, advocates, teachers, mentors, and confidants. They assist adults with intellectual disabilities in functions of daily living including meal preparation, grocery shopping, nutrition, hygiene, and money management. They coach and develop social skills, emotional awareness, and appropriate behaviors. Now they have become essential health care workers as well. They are responsible for multiple rounds of vital monitoring, infection control processes, and management of proper social distancing, hand sanitizing, and mask wearing throughout the day. They endure the formidable liability of keeping the people they support safe, healthy, and COVID-19 free.
At the same time that Horizons implemented all of these unfunded mandates related to COVID-19, we also received a 1% cut to our Adult Services programs and a 10% cut to our Early Intervention program. Gratefully, we have received assistance from many local foundations, businesses, individuals, and organizations. The quick, initial pivot from the way things used to be to the way things are required a lot of community cooperation—through grant funding, resource allocation, collaborations, and conversations. We are thankful for the partnerships with the City of Craig, Moffat County, Moffat County United Way, and the Human Resource Council. We are fortunate for regular testing from Public Health. This continued wave of reinforcement has helped us transition from pre-pandemic service delivery to today’s new normal.
As we continue to persevere through the different stages of this pandemic, Horizons remains committed to providing the highest quality care. Since March, we have successfully implemented and adjusted to telehealth, Google Classroom lessons, and Zoom game nights. We have overcome the challenges of social isolation as well as the frustrations of communicating through masks and not being able to see faces and read facial expressions. We have become experts at donning and doffing Personal Protective Equipment, performing health screenings, creating isolation plans, and checking in on each person’s well-being. Our DSPs have remained positive and professional even as their own health and safety have been exposed to risk and their personal freedoms restricted. While our agency has worked diligently at all levels to respond to COVID-19, it is our people on the frontlines providing direct and compassionate care and devising new and innovative strategies who have been most valuable.
Deirdre Pepin is the Resource Development & Public Relations Coordinator for Horizons Specialized Services. Horizons works in partnership with families and communities to expand opportunities for individuals with, or at risk of, developmental disabilities. To contact Horizons, go to horizonsnwc.org or call 970.824.7804.
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