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Superintendent Update

July 20, 2020

Over the past several month, our agency has made significant changes to our service delivery model in response tot he COVID-19 pandemic.  This has not been easy on anyone, but our staff continues to work hard and remains dedicated to the individuals and families we support.  Staff have remained flexible where needed and open to doing whatever it takes to provide the best support possible in spite of the pandemic restrictions and limitations that we have had to implement.  

During this pandemic, the Early Intervention Department has worked hard to develop innovative ways to reach out to the families enrolled in EI services. The Early Intervention model acknowledges that the family is the child's first and best teacher. To that end, our staff coaches parents to implement play and developmental strategies within their daily routines. Supports are typically provided in the child's natural environment, such as the home. With this being our service model prior to the Stay-at-Home order, the transition to virtual supports was possible. Now, staff members connect with parents and young children via phone call or video-conferencing to provide supports at the same frequency or more as always. The staff has sent instructional videos to parents or found creative ways to teach.  Most parents were able to quickly adapt to the new way of receiving services and some have even asked if this can continue after the pandemic has passed.

Staff within the Service and Support Administration Department has continued to maintain contact with the individuals and family they support as well.  Contact with some individuals has increased to as much as weekly, especially for those that live on their own or only receive a minimal amount of supports.  In line with many other summer activities, the summer SLICE program has also fallen victim to the pandemic.  We did not feel that we could move forward with the program this summer due to all of the mandated restrictions.  However, the Employment Navigation Team has put together a virtual program for those that are still interested in participating.

It continues to be a top priority to support the men and women that live in our homes in a manner that limits their exposure to this virus. As many things in our community have started to open up, we are being even more cautious with this group of very vulnerable men and women.  As of the middle of June, the Governor has opened up outside visitation in Group Home/ICF and assisted living homes.  As a result, the Residential Team has put together a stringent set of guidelines on how visits can resume in our homes on a very limited basis.

Supports for our provider partners has also been a focus over the past several months.  We have increased communications, distributed personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessary supplies and acted as a clearinghouse for staffing needs so we could help shift staff where they were needed most.  Many providers have expressed their gratitude for this increase in communication and additional supports provided throughout the pandemic.  The providers have really stepped up to make sure people continue to receive the supports they need while minimizing exposures to the greatest extent possible.  

Unfortunately, the Special Olympics program has continued to pause throughout the pandemic and competitive play will not likely resume this summer. Special Olympics Ohio has issued guidance on how practice sessions can resume on a very limited basis.  At this time, we are considering opening up softball practice sessions to athletes but this will be limited and we cannot provide any transportation. The golf team has started to practice and they are following all of the Special Olympic and golf course protocols for safe play.

I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable summer!



Michele L. Giess


Richland County Board of DD - Richland Newhope

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