Continuing Updates COVID-19
March 17, 2020
Posted By: Kerrie Mason
Sept. 24, 2020 – Updated Visitation
I am writing to let you know that the Department of Disabilities Services (DDS) has issued updated guidance for indoor visitation in our residential homes. These new guidelines go into effect on October 1, 2020. I have included the DDS guidelines for your reference. The following policies will be put into effect:
- All visits must be arranged in advance (please see procedures below)
- Only 2 visitors are allowed at one time
- All visitors must follow standard COVID-19 transmission precautions
- Visitors must complete the COVID-19 checklist with staff immediately prior to the visit, including having temperatures taken by staff
- Visitors who have COVID-19 symptoms will not be permitted to visit
- “At-risk” people (elderly and those will underlying chronic illness such as diabetes or high blood pressure) should refrain from visiting.
- Visitors who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 14 days will not be allowed to visit
- Masks/face coverings must be worn by visitors
- Visitors must practice hand hygiene (hand washing/hand sanitizing) upon entry into the home
- Visitors must practice social distancing
- Visitors must complete the COVID-19 checklist with staff immediately prior to the visit, including having temperatures taken by staff
- Each program will designate an area where visits can take place. Most of our homes have a second sitting/gathering area which can be used for this purpose. This will allow for some privacy and will serve as a protection for the other people who live in the home and staff who are working there.
- Visits will not be allowed in programs who have a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case in the previous 14 days
- Visits may be longer than 30 minutes, but we are asking families to keep the time reasonable for the comfort and safety of everyone who lives and works in the home.
- Program staff will implement COVID-19 cleaning procedures to disinfect the visiting area immediately following the visit
Families and staff should use the following procedures for visitation:
- Families should call the program in advance to arrange a visitation time at least 24 hours in advance. More noticed is preferred and appreciated.
- Program managers will call all families if there is a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case in the home (for residents or staff).
- Visitation will be put on hold for 14 days. Program managers will inform families when visitation can resume.
Please note that these visitation guidelines can change at any time at the discretion of Venture or DDS. We clearly want to encourage family visits and keep the people we support and our employees safe at the same time.
I ask that you follow the precautions carefully for everyone’s benefit. Our staff do a great job caring for your loved ones day in and day out. I want to make sure they are never in the awkward position of having to tell a family member they can’t visit due to signs of illness.
Pam Sampson, Chief Program Officer
August 24, 2020 – Surveillance Testing
Dear Parents & Guardians, I am writing to give you some information about Surveillance COVID-19 testing. The Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) is requiring that all human services vendors institute surveillance testing of the employees who work in our residential programs. This testing is being mandated to get baseline data for COVID-positive cases.
The testing will be conducted as follows:
- During the weeks of September 1st until September 15th, all Venture employees who work in our programs will be required to be tested for COVID-19.
- After the initial surveillance period, Shannon Slattery, Venture’s Director of Nursing, will check the mass.gov website to determine the previous period’s COVID-19 transmission rate for the regions where Venture programs are located (regions 2, 4, and 5).
- If the COVID-19 transmission rate is under 40 cases per 100,000 people in the region, the region is consider a “low transition region” and no additional staff testing is necessary in that region for that specific 2-week time period.
- If the COVID-19 transmission rate is at 40 or more cases per 100,000 people in the region, the region is consider a “high transition region” and additional staff testing is necessary in that region for that specific 2-week time period.
- Since programs are located in different regions, one region may be subject to testing when others are not. For example, Region 5 program could be required to test while Region 4 programs are not required. The majority of Venture’s programs are located in Region 2.
If staff are found to be positive in any program, the following things will happen:
- Every person who lives in the home will be required to have a COVID-19 test. This is an EOHHS mandate.
- The Residential Program Director will contact the families and/or guardians of any person living in the home to alert them that a staff member has tested positive.
- They are not authorized to reveal which staff has tested positive. This is employee health information which Venture is legally required to protect.
- The staff will be taken off the schedule to self-quarantine for 10 days (from the date of the initial test). This is in compliance with Massachusetts COVID-19 mandates.
- The individuals in the program will shelter in place until the test results for the people who live in the home are acquired.
- No outside visitors will be allowed.
- No visitation to family homes/family functions will be allowed.
- No community outings will be allowed.
- No out-of-home day programming will be allowed.
- We will try to limit the number of staff in and out of the program to the greatest extent possible by instituting longer shifts where it’s feasible.
- If any of the individuals living in the home are found to be positive for COVID-19, the program will remain on shelter in place status for 14 days from the date that testing was performed.
- The program will be provided with enhanced personal protective equipment in order to prevent further transmission.
- If none of the individuals who live in the home test positive for COVID-19, activities and visits can resume as normal.
While inconvenient, these measures are being put into place to protect the health and safety of the people who receive supports and the very dedicated staff who provide those services.
If you have questions about this information, please feel free to contact me by email at email@example.com or by calling (508) 347-8181.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
July 30, 2020 – Virtual Town Hall
Parents, guardians, families & providers. You are invited to take part in our 2nd Virtual Town Hall on Wednesday, August 12 at 6:30pm. We have mailed and emailed the meeting link to all. If you still need to get the link, send your name and email address to: firstname.lastname@example.org
During this meeting, the agency’s Program Operations Team will provide updates on day hap re-opening, in-home programming and safe ways to increase community access.
July 3, 2020 – Visitation Guidelines
From: Pam Sampson
I am writing to share the new visitation guidelines published by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) that go into effect on July 3, 2020. Venture is contractually bound to follow these guidelines which have been put into the place to allow safe family visiting in programs and outside of the homes. I have attached two documents: the DDS policy and an attestation form. The following is a synopsis of the new visitation policy:
- Family members may continue to visit programs. The same rules apply:
- Visits need to be scheduled in advance
- Visits need to occur outside
- Visits are limited to 2 visitors at a time
- Staff need to take the same precautions: check visitors’ temperatures and ask if they have any COVID symptoms or have tested positive for COVID in the previous 14 days
- People with temperatures over 100, symptoms of COVID, or a positive COVID test in the previous 14 days will not be permitted to visit
- Everyone should wear masks (if the person receiving support isn’t tolerant, it is not required)
- Everyone should practice social distancing as much as possible, but hugging is allowed
- If there is physical contact, visitors and the person receiving supports should use hand sanitizer prior to the physical contact
- Visitors that a hug with faces pointed in opposite directions is preferred
- Visits must be monitored by staff
Off-site visitation is allowed. Here are the rules:
- If the individual has symptoms of COVID or has tested positive for COVID, they cannot leave the home for visitation
- Prior to leaving the home, the individual and the visitor must have their temperature taken. If either person has a fever over 100F, the off-site visitation cannot take place
- Prior to leaving, the family member must fill out the attestation form. This form must be completed every time someone goes for a family visit. If someone is picked up on two consecutive days, a separate form must be filled out EACH time they leave the program for a visit. The form is kept by the program.
- The form also includes contact tracing information. This must be filled out for any known people that the person may come into contact with during the visit.
- I have provided this form for you to review. It may also be more convenient for you to fill out the form at your home and bring the completed from with you to the visit/pick up.
- Visits should avoid conditions where social distancing is difficult. For example, going to a department store or a crowded beach is discouraged
- If the person is staying overnight in the family home, it is preferred that they have their own sleeping quarters or sleep at least 6 feet away from any other person
- If the individual develops COVID symptoms while visiting off-site, the family should be advised to get the person medical attention. If this is the case, please contact the program. Staff will speak with their Regional Director for consultation with nursing. They will provide direction about how program staff should proceed.
- The individual may not be able to return to the program until they’re symptom free if there is no viable place for them to isolate while awaiting test results.
- Upon return, program staff will closely monitor the person for COVID symptoms and continue with the practice of daily temperature taking
- Family members who have visited should inform programs if they develop COVID symptoms or test positive in the days after a visit. Program staff will work with nursing staff to determine the best course of action to keep the individual, their housemates and their staff safe.
Please note that these guidelines are subject to change by DDS, depending on the status of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. We will keep you abreast of any changes in these policies, but they will remain in effect until further notice.
I am certain that you are all looking forward to the opportunity to visit your family member and be able to have physical contact. Thank you in advance for your observation of these guidelines. Your cooperation will allow our staff to continue to do the very important work that they do every single day: taking care of your loved ones and ensuring the health of the people that Venture supports. Please contact me at email@example.com if you have any questions or concerns.
June 25, 2020
Parents, guardians, families & providers. You are invited to take part in our Virtual Town Hall on Wednesday, July 8th at 6:30pm. To get the meeting link, send your name and email address to: firstname.lastname@example.org
During this meeting, the agency’s Program Operations Team will give families and guardians updates on what is happening in Venture’s residential and day programs. The plan is to hold these meetings at least quarterly throughout the year to improve the agency’s communication efforts.
We will discuss day hab reopening plans and visitation guidelines. We anticipate additional guidance from DDS and MassHealth, so we will be able to provide updated information. Please feel free to send me other topics that you would like discussed so that we can prepare a family-driven agenda. That agenda will be published prior to the email.
We will be conducting the meeting virtual town hall style. All participants will be muted to reduce distraction from background noises. In addition to agenda items, we will enable the chat feature so that we can address any questions or concerns families may have at the end of the formal agenda.
We hope you can join us!
June 22, 2020
As you may know, Venture and other human services providers are feeling the financial effects of the COVID-19 crisis. Due to increased staffing costs for shelter in place and quarantine coverage and the need to purchase additional personal protective equipment to keep people healthy and safe, we are looking for continued fiscal support from our funders.
We are asking for your assistance to let our legislators in Massachusetts know how vital it is to continue to support Venture and our sister agencies. Following is a link to The Arc of Massachusetts’s website. There is a simple online form to fill out which will go to Governor Baker, Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Spilka to let them know how important safety net funding is and that as their constituent, you support it. Thank you in advance for your help! https://bit.ly/2VjTTtR
June 15, 2020
Parents, guardians, families & providers. Please take our brief survey for the re-opening of our three day programs. Your feedback is essential and appreciated!
June 8, 2020
VISITATION GUIDELINES: Please find the guidance that Venture received from the Department of Developmental Services about visitation resuming in our residential programs. Venture is bound to minimally uphold these guidelines. While I encourage you to read the entire document, here are the highlights:
- Visitations must be scheduled in advance
- Visitations can last no longer than 30 minutes
- Visitations must occur outside
- Visitations will be monitored by Venture staff
- Visitors must wear face masks
- Visitors must practice social distancing. This means no hugging, hand holding or other common signs of physical affection and maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet from your loved one.
- Visitors cannot enter the home for any reason
- Visitors must submit to pre-visit screening, which includes a temperature check at the program. If the visitor has a fever over 100F, they will not be allowed to visit
- Only two people can visit at a time
- Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the previous 14 days or has been ordered by their healthcare provider to quarantine cannot visit
- Visitors who experience COVID-19 symptoms (shortness of breath, fever, cough, chills, sore throat, muscle pain, loss of taste/smell) or test positive for COVID-19 up to 2 days after the visit must contact the home so that residents can be monitored for COVID-19 and tested as necessary.
If your loved one will have difficulty with the limitation on visits, we ask that you refrain from visiting until restrictions are lifted further. Some people we support may have challenging behavior when faced with not being able to hug loved ones, visiting for short amounts of time, and not being able to leave the program with loved ones.
We know that these limitations are challenging. We hope that our collective continued vigilance will keep your loved ones and the very dedicated staff who care for them healthy and safe. As such, we are unable to make any exceptions to this policy until we receive further direction from the Department of Developmental Services.
Thank you in advance for your understanding.
April 23, 2020
Venture in the Sturbridge Villager
April 11, 2020
Venture in the local news:
April 9, 2020
Message to all Venture Staff from Mike
Good morning Venture. Today I’m reaching out to tell you how grateful the agency and everyone else connected to us is for all of the work that you all continue doing. Today marks the 25th day that we have all been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and I’m sure for a great many of us it feels even longer. We have seen a total of 3 positive tests in separate programs among the people we support and I would suggest that the relatively small number is a testament to the skillful work being done in each of our programs. The individuals were hospitalized and at least 2 have recovered well enough to be close to discharge. Shannon, our Director of Nursing, is working directly with the hospitals to manage safe transition plans back to the agency when the time is appropriate. Our quarantine center in Sturbridge is ready to deploy if and when needed after a water issue this week. Big shout outs to the people in our Facilities Department for immediately digging in to a huge mess in order to make the facility available again. It was not an easy task.
Unfortunately, we have had a couple of employees also test positive to date and we all wish them a complete recovery as quickly as possible. We will of course be reaching out to them to see how they are doing and what they may need. Several staff have also needed to be quarantined at home due to possible exposure and we certainly hope their 14 days pass peacefully and without any symptoms of the virus. We continue to get guidance from several sources every day and we know that each agency in the state is facing the same challenges we are. Fortunately, most agencies are communicating and sharing ideas and resources with each other, which is a nice change of pace.
As you know, almost all Venture homes are essentially sheltering in place right now in an effort minimize the exposure risk to the individuals we support, many of whom have considerable medical issues. It is absolutely humbling to see so many of our staff step in to do everything in their power to keep these people safe. Our advocacy is entirely focused now on helping the workforce, including employees who temporarily have no hours because they have been unable to shelter in place. Congress will soon be debating another stimulus package and we have been aggressive in making sure that this one specifically identifies direct care professionals and their supervisors as a group that needs immediate financial support. Several people in the Senate have agreed that this should be a priority and that is promising. In terms of safety, Venture and other providers are pushing for mobile COVID-19 testing that can be deployed to homes. DDS is trying to finalize an initiative that would do just this and allow testing to be brought directly to individuals and employees. Of course, we continue to leave no stone unturned to acquire protective equipment for staff and we have orders for gowns and masks, at least some of which we hope to have in-house next week. We will keep working with other agencies to create a stockpile of these items and will not stop working with the state and federal government to remember our employees and the their need for protection as they do such amazing work.
Thank you for all your efforts, not just in the past 25 days but every day all year long!
April 4, 2020
As of April 4, 2020 Venture has 3 individuals out of 300 that are hospitalized. All safety protocols are in place.
April 3, 2020
On April 3, 2020 a fake Facebook profile posted false COVID-19 information throughout our page with the intent to harm the reputation of the agency. Please be assured that Venture has protocols in place to protect the health and safety of all people we support as well as our staff of more than 800. These protocols are evaluated and updated daily to keep up with the ever-evolving situation. In our effort of transparency, we will keep updated statistics posted on our website for reference. Our staff continues to provide outstanding supports to all in our care and for that, we thank them greatly!
March 31, 2020
Per guidance from the state, the Venture office will continue to have very limited access through May 4th. This includes all training being cancelled through 5/4/2020. (please see 3/23 post)
March 26, 2020
Dear Parents, Guardians and Families,
I am writing to update you on Venture Community Services’ new visitation policy. This policy follows the guidance put forth by Jane Ryder, Commissioner of the Department of Developmental Service. I have included a copy of the memo that was issued by Commissioner Ryder for your convenience.
Until the threat of COVID 19 is resolved, Venture will allow no visitors to any of its program locations. In addition, we are prohibiting visitation with friends and family. The only exception to this visitation policy will be in end of life circumstances, with express advanced permission from Venture management.
If you wish to pick your loved one up, unfortunately we will not be able to accept them back into our program until these pandemic restrictions have been lifted. If you choose to do so, please contact the program manager so that we can make appropriate arrangements for a long term family visit.
We are enforcing these restrictions until further notice to limit exposure to the virus. While restrictive, it is being done in an attempt to preserve the health of the people that Venture supports and our very dedicated staff who provide those services. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Pam Sampson, Chief Program Officer
March 23, 2020
As many of you may have heard by now, Governor Charlie Baker issued an emergency order requiring all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” to close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public as of Tuesday, March 24th at noon until Tuesday, April 7th at noon. As a result of this order and similar to the approach of following the state’s lead in regards to inclement weather delays and closing, we will be limiting access to the main office.
Staff who need to meet with someone in the main office are free to schedule an appointment, as many of the people that work in the administrative office will be doing so remotely. Even though we may not be physically in the office, we are available via, phone, email and teleconferencing in an effort to ensure that your questions and concerns get addressed. The agency will continue to stockpile supplies during this period and be responsible for delivering items to programs as needed.
March 19, 2020
Shout out to all of #teamventure for stepping up to the plate and continuing to pitch in where needed. We sincerely appreciate your unwavering commitment! Behind the scenes here, we continue to purchase, inventory and deliver food and supplies to all of our residences to ensure everyone has what they need.
March 17, 2020
Message From Our CEO
Good afternoon Venture. I wanted to take a few moments to reach out to you today with an update on the ways in which the agency is monitoring and responding to the COVID 19 situation. It is a topic that dominates every headline and it is important that we all remain well informed. To date, there are no cases of any employees or individuals associated with the agency having been diagnosed with the virus. This is not surprising given the relatively low incidence of infection across Massachusetts, which is a state with more than 7 million residents. At this point, fewer than 200 people have been diagnosed or presumed to be infected. Things certainly change daily but right now, that is the impact on the state.
Venture has implemented a number of steps to enhance safety for all of our employees while they do the amazing work they have always done. We opted to close our day programs out of a sense of extreme caution and to limit the number of people with whom those we support have contact. We also engaged a professional cleaning company to sanitize the offices regularly and we are prepared to send companies to homes as needed should it be required. In addition, Venture is working daily to stockpile a variety of supplies that can be deployed to homes that need them. This can be done in a way that does not require staff from programs to be pulled away from the invaluable work they are continuing to do. The agency is also receiving ongoing communications regarding the virus from multiple sources several times a day so that we can remain responsive in real time. Our information comes from our trade association, ANCOR, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and an international law firm. The updates we get guide all of our decisions and come from the most informed sources in the country. We also monitor what is happening in other agencies in Massachusetts and have already offered some best practices to agencies who have asked for help.
While this seems like a scary time for everyone, I am confident we can all get through it together. In the past six and a half years, I have seen our workforce do truly incredible things and we have unwavering faith in the skill and commitment of this extraordinary group of professionals. We will continue to supply each of you with the information and tools to manage this unique situation and we will advocate seven days a week for the state and federal government to recognize all that you do. I would be remiss if I did not mention this agency’s great thanks to so many people who have done so much already. Group home staff and managers who show up every day to help others and Day Hab staff who willingly changed jobs on the fly and went to homes to continue supporting our individuals are truly what has always been best at our agency. Facilities staff and drivers who have already volunteered to do whatever it takes to support the homes and the staff who are working so hard are truly inspiring. Our I.T. department and Program Directors are working tirelessly to make sure our infrastructure supports our growing need and the people in H.R and Accounting are constantly adapting to speed up all of the functions that support programs. In short, everyone who reads this has a reason to be proud of the work you are doing under trying circumstances and each person is doing exceptional things that never go unnoticed.
We will continue to update you as things happen and, most importantly, we will continue to recognize and appreciate all that you do.
March 16, 2020
Day Program Closure
Effective Monday, March 16th, all Venture Community Day Programs will be closed until further notice. All Day Program employees should report to their respective programs on March 16 at usual time to discuss residential coverage and deployment. Admin and transportation staff to report as usual. Thank you for your commitment while we continue to provide needed services to the people we support. We are taking these measures out of an abundance of caution and based on guidance issued by the state related to large gatherings. We will continue to update as we have more information.
March 12, 2020
For Parents, Guardians, Providers
Dear Parents, Guardians and Providers,
I am writing to let you know the steps that Venture Community Services is taking to respond to the threat of COVID- 19 illness. In addition to typical disease prevention techniques and protocols, Venture is implementing the following steps to prevent the spread of the virus to the people that we support and the staff who we employ:
- Purchasing additional cleaning and sanitation supplies for each program that Venture operates
- Purchasing additional personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks for each program that Venture operates
- Implementing additional COVID-19 specific cleaning protocols. These protocols were developed by the Director of Nursing with specific adherence to medical cleanliness guidelines and will be implemented on each shift
- Implementation of professional deep cleaning of each day habilitation program site twice weekly. This cleaning will supplement the daily cleaning that already occurs in these programs
- Implementation of professional deep cleaning of our residential programs that support medically fragile individuals weekly to supplement daily cleaning that already occurs in these programs
- Implementation of sanitation and wipe down of each agency van before and after each use. Sanitizing supplies and hand sanitizer will be stocked in each vehicle in case it is needed during use
- Staff training in the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and flu and appropriate response to these symptoms in our day and residential programs. Literature about this topic has been posted in each of our programs
- Staff training in proper hand washing techniques. Literature about this topic has been posted in each of our programs
- Limiting outings in the community where large groups may gather
- Upon signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and/or flu, individuals’ PCP office will be contacted for further instruction about treatment
- A COVID-19 response team will convene upon positive or presumed positive diagnosis of COVID-19 to respond to the needs of the specific program and individual receiving supports. This team will consist of senior staff from agency operations, nursing and clinical services
- The Director of Nursing is developing a Quarantine Protocol, should the need arise, to effectively quarantine individuals for the recommended 14 day period
We are confident that these steps will aid in preventing the occurrence of COVID-19 in our programs, for the people we support and our very dedicated work force. Venture is also collaborating with other agencies and the Commonwealth. In order to keep you updated on the latest developments, we will be posting updates on our website venturecs.org and on our Facebook page.
Mike Hyland, President & CEO
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