Subject: News from The Bridge: Spring 2020

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Briefs from The Bridge

~Spring 2020

Dear Friends,

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone, including here at The Bridge where our programs, clients, and staff have all had to quickly adjust to the new world in which we're finding ourselves. 

All of The Bridge's programs have continued to operate throughout the pandemic, providing needed behavioral health and housing services to the most vulnerable in our community. Below, you'll read about how our programs have adapted to ensure the safety of clients and employees. And about how our staff, always so dedicated to the work they do, have stepped up amidst the crisis and are working so hard to meet the new and continuing needs of those we serve.

You'll also read about how this crisis has significantly increased The Bridge's expenses. We expect our additional costs due to COVID-19 to soon reach $1 million, of which $250,000 will be needed by June 30th. If you can, please consider supporting our Virtual 2020 Annual Dinner Challenge with a donation. Your support allows us to continue providing vital services in this unprecedented time. 


                     Cynthia Wainwright                            Susan Wiviott
                     President, Board of Directors             Chief Executive Officer

New Program Space Opens in Response to COVID-19
The Bridge has opened an emergency program as part of New York City's COVID-19 response. 

A new Bridge housing program was originally scheduled to open on the campus of the Bronx Psychiatric Center in December of this year, but the New York State Office of Mental Health requested that the Bridge open the space early to free up hospital beds in response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Within days of receiving the request to open the space, The Bridge prepared the building and identified staff to oversee its use. The first client moved in on April 16th, and since then 18 clients have moved in.
Staff in the Lobby of BPC Hybrid

The program, BPC Hybrid, accepts patients from hospitals and psychiatric centers who are ready to move out but are awaiting a more permanent housing placement. At BPC Hybrid, each client lives in a studio apartment with their own kitchen, bathroom, and appliances. Staff are onsite around the clock, and support services and meals are provided to all residents. 
Outpatient Mental Health Clinic Transitions to Telehealth Services
A conversation with Jenna Tine, Senior Vice President of Outpatient Services, and Mary Stone, Clinic Coordinator.

Q: What services did the Mental Health Clinic provide before COVID-19? Are all services still being provided?

A: Before the pandemic, the clinic provided in-person individual therapy and medication management, including injectable medications and bloodwork. All therapy is now being done over telehealth, and most medication management and prescriber visits have also been remote. Clients are receiving injections onsite by appointment.

Q: How have clients reacted to telehealth?

A: Overwhelmingly, clients are saying how much they like telehealth. As long as clients have a phone that can receive calls, they can access services. Some clients who live with other people had privacy concerns during the first few sessions, but those hurdles have been overcome for the most part.

Q: How has telehealth changed staff and client interactions?

A: Staff have been able to provide more therapy -- some clients have increased to two 30-minute sessions per week through telehealth as opposed to one 30-minute session in person. Clients who have difficulty making appointments due to agoraphobia, transportation issues, children, or work are finding telehealth much more accessible.

Mary Stone, Clinic Coordinator, in her remote office

Q: How has telehealth affected clinic services?

A: Telehealth has opened the door to use more individualized plans for every client in the future. The clinic will hopefully continue to provide telehealth for clients who benefit from it, and return to face-to-face for clients who miss in-person therapy. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed telehealth into the mainstream.

Q: What has The Bridge been doing to help clients transition to telehealth services?

A: Staff have been working with outside providers when necessary to make sure clients have access to the technology and resources they need. Clients can also increase their number of sessions per week if needed.

Supportive Housing Programs Adapt to COVID-19
New York City is a different place now due to the pandemic. All of these changes and the need to isolate can be particularly hard on people with a serious mental illness. Our supportive housing programs have been doing their best to encourage clients to remain engaged with their communities and service providers, while following social distancing guidance.

Maple Residence, located in Brooklyn, is home to 50 Bridge clients. Like all of our supportive housing programs, the community room there has closed and groups have been cancelled. Clients have been encouraged to spend as much time in their apartments as possible. 

But the community at Maple Residence has found creative ways to keep residents connected and engaged: A newsletter has been created to help tenants stay connected to their peers even if they can’t spend time together. Residents have also been taking turns tending to the gardens and enjoying time outdoors in the program's three yards. Onsite staff check in with clients more frequently to make sure they’re doing okay and staying healthy. Staff also ensure clients have access to health education information and community resources, are able to connect with their providers and loved ones over the phone, and have activities to keep themselves occupied as they stay at home.
Staff in the Side Yard at Maple Residence


Keeping clients and staff safe in residential settings amidst the COVID-19 pandemic presents its own unique challenges. Across all of our residential programs, The Bridge is:

Keeping Communal Areas Safe and Clean
Visitors to residential programs are limited to essential workers such as home health attendants; all visitors must wear a mask, have their temperature checked, and answer COVID-19 screening questions. Community rooms have been closed and clients are encouraged to stay in their apartments as much as possible. Maintenance staff are disinfecting common areas regularly. All staff and clients have been provided with cloth masks.

Helping Residents Practice Social Distancing
Each residence has a pantry for clients in need of food, and activities such as coloring books and crossword puzzles to help prevent boredom. Phones and minutes have been provided to clients who were having trouble accessing telehealth services from their doctors and other providers. 

Four Questions with ACT Program Director Elizabeth Squires
Individuals served by an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team receive frequent services in community locations from a multidisciplinary team of clinicians. Manhattan Shelter ACT II Team Program Director Elizabeth Squires discusses how the team is providing services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elizabeth Squires, Program Director of Manhattan Shelter ACT II Team

ACT teams are staffed by clinicians who work very closely together to provide a wide array of behavioral health services to clients. How does your team collaborate now that you are not in the office together?

Every day, our entire staff meets via video conferencing. We discuss all the clients on our caseload and make a plan for who each staff person will connect with. Obviously it’s different now that we aren’t all together in the same room every day, but I think facing this crisis and adapting to telehealth has really brought us together and helped us grow as a team.

ACT staff usually meet with clients in community locations to provide interventions. Are you still doing this?

We are, but much less often. Some of our work cannot be done remotely; for example, our nurses still need to give injections, or we may need to deliver medications. There are also clients who are at higher risk and really need someone to check in with them in-person. So we are still doing visits, but where possible, we’ve transitioned to providing services over the phone or video call.

Our nurses have been handling many of the in-person visits, going to shelters and clients' homes to administer injections, and they have truly been going above and beyond in this crisis.

How are clients responding to receiving telehealth services?

The response has been varied. Clients aren’t used to receiving services in this way, so there’s been an adjustment period for some. Other clients have actually been easier to reach by phone. In some cases, we’ve really been able to work with clients and have been introducing more evidence-based interventions, for example, doing worksheets with clients over the phone.

Some clients did not have phones before the pandemic, or may lose their phones frequently. So this can sometimes be a challenge. We’re providing phones and minutes to any clients who need them though, since we don’t want that to be a barrier to anyone receiving services.

Does your team, which works with clients who reside in shelter at the time of intake, face any unique challenges?

There’s been a lot of movement within the shelter system right now as the City responds to COVID-19. We had a client test positive who was moved to an isolation shelter. Some of our older clients have been moved to hotels so they can better practice social distancing. And there’s been a lot of anxiety and uncertainty among clients about the pandemic generally and about how they are affected individually, particularly those who are currently residing in shelter.

We have good relationships with the shelters where our clients reside, and we’ve been working collaboratively with shelter staff to make sure we know where our clients are and that they are receiving all the services and supports they need.

Please Support Out Virtual 2020 Annual Dinner Challenge
The Bridge cancelled its annual Partner’s in Caring Awards dinner which was planned for June 2, 2020. This loss of revenue, at a time when our expenses have increased substantially due to the COVID-19 crisis, will have a tremendous impact on our financial resources over the coming year.

Our unexpected costs due to COVID-19 will soon reach $1,000,000.
Our goal for this challenge is to raise $250,000 by June 30, 2020.

Our Board of Directors has generously agreed to match $100,000 of this amount. Please consider making a donation in lieu of attending our annual dinner, to help offset the following emergency costs in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

• Over $200,000 for medical and other essential supplies to help protect our front-line staff and help keep our facilities clean and sanitized. Care packages and food deliveries help our clients follow the “stay at home” order and health and safety guidelines.

• More than $250,000 per month for personnel costs for overtime, incentive and sick pay for staff to fill in extra shifts as colleagues are out on sick leave and to ensure that our programs remain open.

$500,000 for technology equipment and connectivity to provide tele-health which is crucial to helping clients maintain their psychiatric and physical health stability thereby reducing unnecessary hospitalization and emergency room use.

We are truly grateful for all your help thus far and hope you contribute to this special appeal.

All donations are 100% tax deductible and will help us continue to provide our essential services to our vulnerable population.

The Bridge, 290 Lenox Avenue, New York, NY 10027, United States
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