To the many who love someone who we support – thank you for your understanding, partnership, and patience these past weeks and months. We know that these months of separation from your loved one have been difficult. We know they have been stressful. We know that they have been painful.
Today, we want to acknowledge that pain and the difficulty of your separation from your loved one. I want you to know that although fundamentally, we cannot understand your pain, we do see it. And we know that it is made worse by the frustrating lack of information that you have from New York State and the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities [OPWDD] about when and how you might see your loved one again. We share your frustration.
Under the mandate of OPWDD, our campuses, office locations, and residences remain closed for visitation. I know this is difficult to understand as you hear, read, and see our state “opening” more and more each week. I hope to give you at least a small amount of context for this decision—though I do not condone the lack of communication from our state oversight agencies. Keeping residences closed for visitation is about safety. People with I/DD are at a higher risk of having a more severe bout of the illness, and a far higher risk of death if they contract COVID-19. Because COVID-19 spreads from person to person, keeping the number of people who come into contact with individuals in residential settings is a critical safety measure—it is why Springbrook created our Home Unit staffing model.
However, separation from loved ones is unsustainable and detrimental to the well being of the people we support. What we must all do—state regulators, provider organizations (like Springbrook), and parents and families—is weigh the risks thoughtfully and thoroughly. What are the chances of contracting COVID-19, and how do we mitigate them? How long can families endure the pain of separation? What will the effects be of prolonged time away from family and friends on the people we support? This is not an easy task. And there are no easy answers.
At Springbrook, we have not ignored these hard questions. We have been deliberating them carefully. We have asked for guidance from OPWDD. We have asked for the thoughts and experiences of provider organizations across the state. We have gathered a group of parent advisors to help us as we wrestle with these questions. We are working to be ready the moment that visitation restrictions are lifted by the state to safely begin visitations. When those restrictions are lifted, we will not jump-in to “life as usual.” Visitation will be different than it was before COVID-19 because we must protect every person we support. We are working to find a balance between caution, safety, your needs as loved ones, and the needs of residents and students.
As we continue to work on our visitation plan, we hope you will share your thoughts with us. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas and suggestions. You can also use your voice and speak directly with OPWDD. Their contact information is available here.
Family members will also be invited to our next series of Family Webinars, which will take place the week of June 22-26. In these webinars, we will discuss our visitation plan in further detail, along with our evolving approach to COVID-19 as we enter the summer months. An email with dates, times, and links for the webinars will be sent next week.
Again, thank you for your partnership throughout this ordeal. No one can love your son, daughter, sister, brother, or grandchild, the way that you do. The trust you have given Springbrook to care for your loved one is never forgotten—it is a responsibility that guides every decision we make as an organization. We are acutely aware that our decisions affect the needs, safety, education, comfort, and happiness of thousands of people every day. It is our privilege and honor to be trusted with such a meaningful and precious gift.
Chief Executive Officer