Personalized Recovery-Oriented Services (PROS) is a program which evolves around increased socialization, togetherness, and connections. Our group classes at The Guidance Center of Westchester (TGCW) are lively, and our participants thrive in an environment where they learn and gain support from one another as well as from the professional staff. PROS is very much a community.
COVID-19 threw a curve into our PROS paradigm. Yet, our staff and participants adapted and overcame obstacles. Even in these trying times, our participants continue to work toward recovery, and we are seeing positive results.
Like so many other mental health programs, we needed to move to virtual or online courses. While we had some trial and error, we quickly reached an effective way to meet the needs of our participants. We are so proud of the adaptability of our program participants and staff.
We continued to meet in person with participants the week of March 16. During that time, we prepared by creating individual telehealth schedule for each participant. We helped participants download applications, such as Zoom, and taught them how to use them. We provided participants with resources on where to obtain food and how to follow CDC health guidelines for safety.
The week of March 23, we began the individual telehealth schedules. Meeting individually with each participant via telehealth twice a week proved overwhelming to staff and participants alike. Participants missed interacting with others. It was clear that in order to provide adequate support for participants, we would need to move telehealth classes. By the end of that week, we developed a modified schedule and structured curriculum for our virtual classroom.
We began Zoom classes on March 30. Participants were very excited and found comfort in being able to see their peers. By April 6, we had more than 70 courses of 40-minutes running each week. We fine-tuned the schedule and offerings, making sure we were providing participants with content they wanted. By April 13 we were offering 75 courses of 45 minutes each. Much like in the “old” days, participants are able to choose which courses they want to participate in throughout the day.
“I really appreciate the PROS staff for continuing to conduct groups by telehealth because the groups really help me stay focused,” said one participant.
We’re offering new courses such as staying safe and well during the pandemic and social distancing. We’ve modified some of our “tried and true” courses to fit the new model. These include peer support, mindfulness, gardening, physical fitness and eating healthy with what is in your cabinet. Our “music to our ears” course allows participants to share music that they find uplifting, and our music therapy explores writing lyrics and incorporates household items as instruments.
Another PROS participant said the following: “I usually isolate in my apartment and it is hard for me to go into program and then get the strength to attend groups. Now with telehealth I feel less lonely in my struggle because everyone has to isolate. At the same time, I am getting more support from PROS because being able to call in to groups removes the stress of having to leave my house making it easier for me to attend groups.”
Our psychiatric providers, a psychiatrist and a nurse practitioner, are doing all sessions via telehealth. Telehealth adds a new dimension to flexibility which has increased the show rate while ensuring that participants receive the psychiatric support that they need. Our nurse continues to be on-site every Tuesday. Following proper protocols, we are able to ensure that labs are completed, and that medication management and distribution takes place. For participants who are at a higher risk of contracting COVID, the nurse makes house calls. No participant has missed an injectable medication or treatment.
We’ve been encouraging participants to use their natural supports to help increase success of treatment.
We have enrolled two new participants and have re-engaged nine others. We look forward to continuing to enroll new participants.
Alicia Lore-Grachan, LCSW, is Deputy Executive Director for Rehabilitative Services and Alice Sorensen, LCAT, MT-BC, is Assistant Director of PROS at The Guidance Center of Westchester. Visit us to learn more at: www.TheGuidanceCenter.org.