A Look at SCARC’s Day-Hab Re-Opening Plan

June 8, 2021

A Look at SCARC’s Day-Hab Re-Opening Plan

For well over a year, SCARC has been operating on a largely virtual basis, providing high-quality online programming via our Digital Day-Hab. But as the state slowly begins a return to normalcy (albeit a “new normal”), SCARC is planning its return to in-person day-habilitation services. This is an incredibly complex, multi-step process that’s driven by rigorous standards and NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities mandates. At the same time, we’re carefully considering the feelings and concerns of the individuals and families we serve.

To keep our individuals, families, and supporters informed, we’re sharing what reopening looks like at a high level: what we must consider, what we must do and have in place, and what we must know and learn. As required by the DDD, SCARC must establish and implement a plan for reopening each its day programs. We’re permitted to accept up to 50% of our usual capacity at each location, but how many individuals can actually safely attend at a given time is more complicated, as there are numerous physical and staff requirements that may prevent us from reaching a full 50%.

A “facility-readiness tool” developed by the DDD must be completed for each of SCARC’s day-hab locations. The tool includes extremely detailed checklists that must be addressed in several key areas, from supplies to facility changes to training. Following is a glimpse into each of these areas and some of the requirements we must meet:

PPE and Supplies: We have installed touchless sinks and hand-sanitizing stations to facilitate enhanced hand hygiene. In addition, we’ve stocked up on face coverings for staff and individuals (to wear if tolerated) and invested in disposable eating and drinking utensils and other single-use materials where possible. All meals and snacks provided by each program will be pre-packaged. Individual supplies for activities such as arts and crafts and even board games will be distributed and utilized to prevent the sharing of objects and support distancing requirements.

Health screening and illness-containing procedures: Each SCARC program will make use of electronic-screening kiosks that will screen each individual and staff member before entrance to the building. Staff members will enter the information for each individual and ensure a complete check-in is properly completed each day. The kiosks will produce nametags that can be displayed to prove health status. Each person entering the building will be required to sanitize hands upon arrival. In the event someone becomes ill during the day, he or she will be isolated until transportation can be arranged. Isolation will take place in a safe yet separate dedicated space designed for this purpose that utilizes its own air-purification system.

Physical facility and operational layout modifications: We’ve made significant changes to our physical layout to support social distancing and ensure safety. These include the use of markers on the floor to help individuals maintain distance, physical barriers and dividers where appropriate, additional furniture to allow for adequate separation, completely renovated HVAC systems, and much more.

Cleaning and sanitizing procedures: Many of the procedures we’ve been using in our group homes throughout the pandemic will be implemented in our day-hab locations. Highly enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols will be in place. Staff are equipped with a wide variety of cleaning supplies, including sanitizing “foggers” that can quickly sanitize an entire space, such a room or vehicle interior. These cleaning procedures will be complemented by all-new HVAC systems with sophisticated air-purification systems.

Transportation: Current requirements mean that we can only put a single individual in each row of a van, which dramatically reduces our ability to transport those we serve. Thus, we will look to caregivers and families to assist with transportation as much as possible as we ease into reopening.

Individual Risk/Benefit Assessments: Each one of the individuals we serve is extremely unique and has needs and challenges that are highly nuanced. For this reason, it’s essential that we meet with each individual and/or their caregiver(s) to discuss the individual’s return to in-person services. Factors such as vaccine status, ability to maintain distance and follow hygiene practices, health vulnerabilities, transportation needs, level of engagement in virtual services, and the individual and family’s comfort level in returning are all taken into consideration. Together with each family, we’ll determine when and how the individual should return to in-person services.

Staff Training: Our staff has been receiving rigorous training throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic. As we reopen, we will continue to reinforce this education, with focuses on health screening and illness management protocols, cleaning and sanitizing procedures, infection-control practices, and much more.

Individual and Family Education: Individuals and their families must be wholly prepared for a return to in-person services. They must be able to screen for possible symptoms and understand their responsibilities to identify and communicate these to SCARC. We also want them to fully understand everything SCARC is doing to protect their health, so they feel comfortable with their loved ones returning to our programs.

Balancing Needs and Preferences
While we are very excited to reopen our in-person programs, we fully recognize the need for virtual programming to continue. Not only do some individuals and families continue to require virtual programming for health and safety reasons, but some find that they prefer it over in-person services. Indeed, the vast majority of the individuals we serve have flourished over the past year, spreading their wings and learning and doing more in a virtual environment than we ever thought possible.

In general, we will focus first on bringing those individuals back who are not living in our group homes (as these individuals are able to receive structured programming in their homes), those who are vaccinated, those who aren’t medically vulnerable, and those most able to tolerate mask-wearing, distancing, and hand-hygiene requirements. However, as previously stated, we will make these decisions on a very individualized basis in concert with the individuals themselves along with their caregivers and families.

Looking Forward
Safety continues to be our top priority, but we also want to respect everyone’s own level of comfort, and we want to ensure each individual is living his or her best life in the safest possible way. We consider SCARC to be the gold standard for programs that serve individuals with developmental disabilities and we take this role very seriously.

While we can’t predict an exact date by which we will open our day-hab doors, we hope to do so during the month of June. The progress and process will be slow and careful to ensure the safest and best experience for all.

If you have any questions about our reopening process or anything else, please reach out to Janis Woersching, SCARC’s Chief Operating Officer at [email protected].