Futures Responds to Covid-19

On March 16, 2020 Futures Rehabilitation Center’s facility based and employment services were suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Licensed by Pennsylvania’s Office of Developmental Programs, Futures is obligated to follow all state and federal guidelines for operating our facilities and services in the safest manner possible to protect our participants and employees. It was not known how long the “shut-down” would occur or what a “re-opening” would encompass.  “It was a scary and unknown time,” a staff member stated.

Futures’ In-Home and Community program continued to operate during the closure but was limited to participant’s requiring supports to ensure their health and safety needs were being met and to support them while their family members continued to work. Staff assigned to this program were flexible in their scheduling and worked outside their normal working hours to ensure the continuity of services.

All facility based participants and a significant portion of employees sheltered at home, leaving only Administrative Staff remaining at the facility to assist with monitoring updates regarding the pandemic.  Employees received communications via email and participants were encouraged to follow Futures’ Facebook Page in order to be kept abreast of the ever evolving situation.  An informative communication for the reopening of our facility based services was authored by the Agency’s administration team and emailed to all staff on May 8th. The plan explained the new work procedures and changes to facility operations for participants and employees to follow upon their return.

During the weeks of May 11th and May 18th, the first group of employees returned to work to begin the process of preparing the workshop for the eventual return of participants and begin fulfilling work orders for our business partners. Workstation barriers were constructed to separate participants in the work center. A COVID-19 Action Plan was implemented.  The plan was based on a very inclusive document obtained from our friends at Zippo. Every employee, participant and visitor is screened before entering the building, their temperature is taken and everyone is required to wear a mask when not at their workstation or when being visited by others at their workstation.

In late May, every employee received a detailed “COVID-19 Return to Work Guidelines for Facility Based Service” document. This document explains in more detail the COVID-19 health symptoms, handwashing techniques, hygiene best practices, mask wearing information, new building entrance and exit designations, one-way stairway traffic flow, elevator usage, and work area cleaning procedures. These guidelines are reviewed with every employee upon their return to work and are reviewed with every participant on an ongoing basis.

The week of June 1st, the first 12 participants returned to the work center. Staff assisted participants in undergoing the daily screening process and monitored and encouraged the use of masks and social distancing.  Participants were educated on a daily basis regarding the importance of the above stated guidelines. Work shifts were changed for many participants from full days to half days which allowed for more participants to return to work and maintain the 50% building capacity expectation.

As of June 19th, approximately half of our work center participants have returned. The Life Skills program is scheduled to reopen on June 22 at 25% capacity. Community Integration Program services are scheduled to resume on June 29th, however, on a very limited basis to assist with ensuring participant’s and employee overall safety. The BRAD Center reopening date is unknown at this time due to the fact the participants served are in the highest risk category for having complications related to the COVID-19 virus.

Futures continues to monitor and refine its approach to this ever changing pandemic.  Our COVID-19 Action Plan is continually updated to reflect state and federal guidelines, meet the needs of our participants and staff, as well as to ensure everyone’s overall safety.  Futures recognizes these are changing times, however, the mission of our organization will continue to remain the same as it has for the past 50+ years, to support people with disabilities to become participating and contributing members of the community.

Thank you to all our dedicated staff, Board of Directors, Agency, business partners and community for their continued support of our organization and mission. We could not have gotten this far without you!