There has been some debate about who exactly falls into the category of essential workers during this time of COVID-19 quarantine. Most agree that health care workers, first responders and grocery store personnel fall into this category. And there are of course many other groups of people providing indispensable services who we do not hear about as often and they do so while putting themselves and their families at risk of exposure to the coronavirus. Included among the essential workers are the direct care staff at Hillsides and other child-serving facilities like ours.
Early on, it became clear that a response to the virus would include a stay-at-home approach for an extended period. In light of the Safer at Home order, Hillsides was quick to identify the staff who would be responsible for the care of children in the residential treatment program and the community-based clients who would require an in-person intervention because of a mental health crisis. Using public health guidance, we began to determine what items would be required to maintain safe client contact while mitigating exposure to the virus. Gloves, masks, protective garments and sanitizers were obtained as quickly as we could. Protocols were developed and put in place to govern operating in an unpredictable environment. Technology was deployed to allow for remote delivery of services as much as possible. To date, these measures have kept both clients and staff safe and healthy.
The unknowns with this virus remain the greatest source of concern. In spite of such uncertainty, our residential services staff and those providing in-person contact with clients in the community are doing so not because of the additional “hazard pay” we provided but because they are unquestionably committed to the wellbeing of those they serve. They are among the many heroes of this pandemic who selflessly tend to children, youth and their families whose vulnerabilities are intensified by COVID-19. They provide services worrying about not only their own health but also for the wellbeing and safety of their families. This is a lot to ask of our employees. It exceeds the expectations of the job description. They have demonstrated extraordinary dedication. In the midst of anxiety and stress, they remain calm and focused and have done an admirable job reassuring clients as best they can and maintaining an environment of caring.
As we recognize employees who maintain direct contact with clients, we also acknowledge all our employees who reached out to all we serve and began to provide care remotely within 72 hours. Our doors have remained open and we have actually increased our capacity to serve those who are most vulnerable during this unprecedented crisis. Heroes are among us, unassuming, determined to support and care for those who need it most. To an exceptional cadre of employees, we voice a heartfelt THANK YOU for being our heroes.