November 12, 2020
It has been just under 3 weeks since our last communication. In that time, our country has continued to experience the year of 2020, like no other time in our lives.
Several of our programs enjoyed Halloween, in the safety of their homes, decorating for fall, enjoying dressing up and eating sweet treats. Our AIM Day Program spread the holiday out throughout the week to ensure safe celebrations.
The presidential election was historic in every way. Due to the global pandemic, for the first time in history, each registered New Jersey voter received a mail-in ballot. For the disability community, this option provided a level of accessibility that made voting more manageable. While not all of the individuals served at Alternatives vote, there were many more who had that opportunity than in prior election years.
As you may have heard, New Jersey's new COVID-19 cases have been climbing drastically in recent weeks. New Jersey health officials reported that on Wednesday, for the third time in five days, the state had seen more than 3,000 cases per day. We were warned about a surge of this virus, and I believe with numbers this high, we are experiencing the start of the second wave.
I am happy to report that we have no new positive client cases at this time. We continue to be vigilant and we are taking every precaution necessary to reduce risk to clients and staff. Our leadership team maintains ongoing communication with all employees around PPE, safe screening processes, COVID-related policies, contact tracing and testing, when appropriate. We will continue to keep you informed as we have since this crisis began.
The Collaborative for Citizen Directed Supports NJ is hosting a Virtual Town Hall, with Governor Murphy and Commissioner of Health Persichilli, next Thursday, November 19th at 1PM, for an important update on COVID19 and the coordinated response to the second wave. To register for this virtual event, click HERE.
Lastly, I wanted to bring to your attention that Alternatives has an anonymous Compliance Hotline. The hotline is for reporting any issues of non-compliance to the Corporate Compliance Officer. All reports are confidential. You can leave a message on this line 24 hours per day, 7 days per week at (908)685-1444 ext. 600. I have also linked the flyer to this email for your reference.
Wishing a safe and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.
Stay safe and be well,
Nancy Good, MSW, LSW
October 23, 2020
It has been a little more than 2 weeks since our last communication, and it seems that so much is always changing. We are happy to report that we have had a successful re-opening of our AIM Day Program, at reduced capacity, and you can see a glimpse of that in these photos of participants making Halloween crafts.
Our residential programs continue to work hard at keeping clients engaged in meaningful activities, and venturing out into the community, when it is safe to do so. Our policies conform to the CDC guidelines, along with those put in place by DDD, and reinforced by our Re-Opening Committee. Family visits have continued to take place, and we are all working hard to return to some level of normalcy, while maintaining caution.
As you know, the safety and well-being of our clients and staff have remained at the forefront of all of our efforts, here at Alternatives. We continue to be vigilant with expectations around staff wearing PPE, our screening processes, and contact tracing and testing, when appropriate.
Thank you to those of you who participated in, or donated to, the 6th Annual Dignity Run! While we are still taking donations and calculating the totals, we are pleased to report that the event did very well considering these unique circumstances. It's the commitment of our Alternatives family and community that has been so instrumental in helping us pull through these challenging times.
I would like to bring to your attention that there is a Virtual Town Hall that is a collaboration of Disability Rights New Jersey, the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities. It is an opportunity to have input into how things are going with adults with disabilities here in New Jersey.
The Town Hall will take place on Thursday, October 29th from 7PM to 8PM, and it will address:
• DDD congregate day habilitation services partial reopening
• Flexibilities in service delivery during the pandemic and beyond
• The importance of flu shots
• Last-minute voting tips
• Other issues raised by the participants
You can register for the event by following this LINK.
Your Feedback is Needed
The New Jersey Developmental Disability Advocacy Network (DDAN), Person-Centered/Self-Directed Services Committee is seeking your input and feedback on the New Jersey Comprehensive Assessment Tool (NJCAT).
The NJCAT is the standardized assessment tool used by the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) to determine eligibility for services and identify an individual’s level of need for support in three main areas: self-care, behavior health, and medical.
Lastly, with the holidays right around the corner, I would like to remind you of Alternative's Code of Conduct policy that says that staff are not permitted to accept individual gifts from clients or their families. In future communications, we will provide ideas and other suggestions about ways to show your appreciation for all that the staff do for your loved ones.
I hope that you have a wonderful couple of weeks, and that we have only good news to share next time.
Nancy Good, MSW, LSW
October 1, 2020
I hope this finds you well, and you are finding things to be grateful for during these unique times. It is hard to believe that it is October already, and that we are getting closer to the end of 2020. While I do cherish each day, I am very much looking forward to the year 2020 being behind us, and better days ahead.
This year has been a time of unprecedented challenges for sure, but one thing remained constant, and that is the continued dedicated efforts of our DSP’s on behalf of the consumers of the agency. If not for their commitment, passion and hard work, we would not have come this far in the crisis as well as we have. We are grateful to the DSP’s who have kept the clients of our community residences safe during these difficult and challenging times and made every effort to keep them busy while we were all under the Stay-at-Home orders, and now, as things are starting to open up, to keep them engaged in activities while keeping their health and well-being in the forefront.
The week of September 13-19, was Direct Support Professional (DSP) Recognition Week. This time is set aside each year to honor DSPs around the country for the important work they do supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our outstanding Direct Support Professionals are the backbone of our work at Alternatives and we have been focusing our efforts to let them know how important they are.
As mentioned in a prior newsletter, at the end of July when the $3 per hour temporary wage increase in COVID related funding that was provided through the CARES Act came to an end, the agency was able to figure out a way to fund a $1.25 permanent hourly wage increase for all Program Staff. This was in recognition of the important work of our direct support staff and the agency’s commitment to make DSP wages a priority. We continue to advocate for increases in DSP Wages and support the efforts of the Coalition for a DSP Living Wage and through some of the action alerts we send out, we hope you will as well.
During DSP Recognition Week, members of our Leadership Team visited each Group Home and Supervised Apartment Living (SAL) Program to thank the staff and deliver care packages to the DSPs and Program Managers.
We were excited this month to be able to recognize one of our very own special DSPs, Caitlin Todd, who was nominated for a HERO Award through the New Jersey Association for Community Providers (NJACP). We are proud to have such dedicated staff work for Alternatives and provide care for your loved ones.
In my last communication, I mentioned that Day Programs are beginning to re-open with reduced capacity in New Jersey. I am pleased to announce that our Abilities in Motion (AIM) Day Program opened last week, with limited occupancy, to start. The AIM team has done a great job supporting Alternatives’ group home and SAL clients throughout the pandemic, and we know how excited they are to welcome clients back into the day program.
Over the past week, some individuals within our residential programs have returned to day programs operated by other provider agencies, and we expect that number to grow over time.
We are just a little over a week away from our virtual Dignity Run fundraiser. We are so grateful to those of you who have made a donation, shared the link, or registered to ride a bicycle, enjoy a scenic car ride, or a motorcycle ride, as a way of participating in your own personal Dignity Run in support of Alternatives! If you are interested in learning more about the event, or about the many ways you can help make this event successful, please contact Glori Bine-Callagy, Director of Marketing and Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to the event page at charity.gofundme.com/thedignityrun2020.
I just want to remind you that if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions, please don't hesitate to reach out to your Program Manager, or Director of Services. You can also feel free to reach out to me directly at email@example.com.
Wishing everyone a safe and enjoyable couple of weeks before our next communication.
Nancy Good, MSW, LSW
September 16, 2020
I hope all of you were able to do something special over the Labor Day weekend, and that you found some time to enjoy this past weekend, as well. And, just like that, Autumn is upon us!
Before we know it, the leaves will begin to change, and the days will seem shorter. I personally look forward to the cooler weather and spending some time outside enjoying fall activities and the beautiful colors. I hope you make the most of it, as well.
Some good news came when DDD issued guidance on September 3rd about the re-opening of day programs. Based on the guidance sent out, some clients may be able to return to day programs with other providers as early as 9/21. Alternatives is in the process of assessing our AIM day program design. As soon as we have more information on an opening date for AIM, we will let you know.
Thank you to everyone who participated in our Virtual Dignity Dash fundraiser that concluded this past Sunday. We are so grateful for those of you who shared our social media posts and helped to spread the word. We are very pleased with the initial calculations of funds raised during this event, and it wouldn't have happened without the many dedicated stakeholders and supporters of Alternatives.
We are moving right into our Fall Fundraiser, The 6th Annual Dignity Run. Some of you may know that this event, in the past, has consisted of an escorted motorcycle ride, followed by a party for all to attend, at the Bridgewater Eagles. This year, as with our other fundraisers, we are going to hold a virtual event. The good news is that it opens up the event to many more people, near and far, and the chance to not only provide financial support to our clients, but those who participate will be eligible for a variety of prizes!
We are asking for your support in whatever way you feel comfortable. Below, we have included a list of ways for you to help, and a link to a message from Shari and Mitch Caspert, parents of an Alternatives' client, Matthew, who attended last year's Dignity Run.
Here are the ways you can get involved with The Dignity Run, if you choose.
• Register, ride and share a photo of your ride
• Register to fundraise and share with others
• In either case, you can join an existing team, or start your own Dignity Run Team of riders or fundraisers
• Donate and share on social media
All of the above can be done by going to: charity.gofundme.com/thedignityrun2020
You can purchase an item to be used as a prize for this event, or one of our other fundraisers, by going to our Amazon Wishlist at: https://a.co/dOZ3INk
Lastly, we are running a 50/50 Raffle for this year's Dignity Run. One ticket is $5, or you can purchase a book of 10 and try your luck for $50. To get your 50/50 tickets, email Karola Terlaje, Director of Administration at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing everyone a safe and enjoyable couple of weeks before our next communication, and for those who celebrate, a sweet Jewish New Year.
Nancy Good, MSW, LSW
September 2, 2020
Another new month is upon us, as is the Fall season. It's hard to believe that we have gone through Spring and Summer during a pandemic, but we have; and overall, we are very grateful for having done so safely.
Monday, Governor Murphy announced that restaurants will be able to open for indoor dining beginning this Friday, September 4, at 25 percent capacity. He also announced that movie theaters and indoor performance venues could also re-open with reduced capacity. This surely represents progress, and we hope that with these re-opening steps, comes a continuation of low and contained Coronavirus cases. As we have all along, we will continue to keep a close watch on all information that becomes available and make decisions based on that information. To that end, please click on the link for an update on our Overnight Visitation Guidelines effective immediately.
We continue to move forward, as an agency, as well. Our re-opening committee continues to meet and takes steps towards our new normal; much of which will have a lasting benefit on Alternatives in the long run. As a result of the pandemic, and a large majority of our administrative staff working remotely from home, we are working to become more efficient in a variety of ways. One example is the technology that we plan to implement to our phone systems. Once in place, calls to our administrative office will automatically be re-routed to employees working remotely, ensuring timely and efficient communication. We have automated many of our standard documentation procedures, that would typically require in-person signatures. As a result, our field staff do not need to drive to the office to sign paperwork, that can be reviewed and signed off on virtually, and safely. This has many benefits, including increased program efficiency, increased staff safety from not having to be on the road, and an overall cost reduction. Many of our training modules have moved to a virtual model, which has also had a variety of benefits to the agency and the staff. These are just a few of the examples of improvements that have been made, and benefits that have evolved out of these unique circumstances.
As I have mentioned before, our summer and fall fundraisers have been impacted by COVID-19, as well. To ensure the safety of everyone involved, our Dignity Dash, (5K and 1 mile-walk and Kid's Fun Run), and our Dignity Run (motorcycle ride and BBQ/Party) have been moved to virtual events. We are quite pleased by the reception we have had with the Dignity Dash, with more than 77 participants thus far, taking place from 9/7-9/13. Visit https://runsignup.com/Race/NJ/AnyCityAnyState/DignityDash for more information about the Dignity Dash.
The Dignity Run has taken on a new twist, now that it will be virtual and you don't need a motorcycle to take part in the ride! If you'd like to participate, all you need are wheels! A motorcycle, a bicycle, a wheelchair, or a car, are all fair game! You can find out more, register and/or donate at https://charity.gofundme.com/thedignityrun2020. We hope that you will consider "joining" us.
I'd like to remind you that if you ever have any questions or concerns, or positive feedback to share, please feel free to reach out to the Program Manager, Director of Services, or designed Associate Vice President for your loved one's program. You can also reach our Vice President of Services, Fresia Skoczypec at , or you can reach me directly at email@example.com.
Wishing you a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.
Nancy Good, MSW, LSW
President, Alternatives, Inc.