You may have read about Association House Staff member Mary in our 2019 Annual Report success stories. Her journey includes first coming to Association House for treatment eventually leading to her roles now as Drop-In Center Team Lead and ACT Community Support Specialist. In her roles, she does home visits for multiple clients, ensuring their safety, hygiene and in the scheduling and attendance of their appointments.

Same as many members of community, Mary’s work has been impacted by the novel coronavirus. With the Stay-at-Home order in place across the state of Illinois, access to Association House for participants is limited. As an essential worker, Mary has transitioned into continuing care for our participants across digital means, along with home visits and more.

Mary details how the coronavirus pandemic has adjusted her work.

How has the pandemic affected how you conduct your work?
Now that we are practicing social distancing we first need to screen participants over the phone for symptoms. The participants are no longer able to come into the facility so I have to provide services over the phone or in their homes after making sure that no one is displaying symptoms, myself included. I wear a protective mask and carry hand sanitizer at all times. I call to check on the participants I serve daily to access their mental status and needs and go over COVID-19 guidelines, staying indoors (social distancing), washing hands often, not touching their faces and using hand sanitizer. When a participant is home I check their food supply and needed basic items (personal hygiene, cleaning). I no longer take participants to the store for needed items. I have them create a list and go to the store to purchase needed items and deliver them to their homes. I try to be as personable as possible without coming into close contact and encourage them to utilize outside helpline numbers as well.

What has been the response to the participants that you have seen and is there anything they have specifically expressed they need?
I think it has affected participants differently. Some participants were nervous and were afraid to come outside some participants did not voice any concerns and some participants voiced feelings of loneliness and didn’t understand why they could not come into the Drop-In Center. I think it’s stressful for a lot of them cause the routine and supports that they had here at the agency can no longer be utilized in person. So I try to keep that personal contact open with them daily by telephone.

What feelings have you had in being able to continue to assist our participants? 
I feel that my role is important in their treatment plan more than ever now. I feel that they need to be reassured often, that even though we aren’t physically there as often, that I am still available to them. I encourage them to call me with questions or concerns.  Sometimes it can be stressful because I feel that the participants need more social interaction and right now that’s just not possible.