Select Page

Addressing the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Saratoga Bridges Day Program Safety Plans, Policies and Procedures

Saratoga Bridges has taken steps to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout our Administration Building and Alpha, Clifton Park and Wilton Day Program.  We were able to resume Day Program service-delivery as of August 3, 2020 after having our Reopening Plans approved by the Offices for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).  Keeping everyone as safe and healthy will be our foremost concern as we forge ahead.  Our Day Programs will be reopening in 4 Phases, beginning with people who live with a family member.  Phase 2 will welcome individuals living with a voluntary residential provider; Phase 3 will incorporate people living in state operated homes; and Phase 4 will welcome the individuals who live in Saratoga Bridges’ homes and apartments.  Every employee and visitor to the building will be required to follow these procedures:

Administration Building

Alpha Day Program

Clifton Day Program

Wilton Day Program

 

 

 

 

December 31, 2020

This has been a crazy, stressful year, but we survived thanks to the caring commitment of our Team Saratoga Bridges.  When I think back on 2020, I think of the statement, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  In our circumstance, the village is our entire diverse team who have kept our individuals and each other safe and healthy.  Our village starts with the dedicated Direct Support Professionals who came to work every day and provided hands-on care in a heighten safety environment with little access to the community.  The village also included our clinical staff who gave physical, occupational, speech and behavioral therapy sessions in our homes; maintenance, custodial and IT who continued to perform all of their responsibilities in our buildings and houses; transportation crew who acted as personal shoppers and mail carriers;  and all of our support services and management team who held everything else together.  And, our Board of Directors, Foundation Directors, family members and the community-at-large rounded out our village by providing moral and financial support, resources and connections over the last 12 months.  Please know that I am truly in awe of the good work that each and every one who participated in making our village cohesive, strong, collaborative, helpful, flexible, patient, understanding and creative.  We taped this video – https://youtu.be/AORao2nJRU8 – as my personal thanks to our village.

As we conclude 2020, the following are activities and updates we want to share

We started scheduling vaccines for individuals living in our homes and interested staff. While vaccines became available on December 24, there was significant confusion in that Governor Cuomo determined that NYS Department of Health (DOH) would take the lead on determining who and how the vaccine would be administered. This took the County DOH’s out of the process.  Unfortunately, Saratoga County did not receive an identified site until December 29 which is the Hudson Headwaters clinic in Moreau.  We began making appointments immediately for our individuals, and as of today (December 31), we have had 10 homes who have had the first dose.  Our goal is to complete the first round of vaccines for everyone interested by the first week in January.

Due to the unpredictability of the pandemic and all of the unexpected NYS budget cuts we took this year with more foreboding ones to come, our 2020 budget was significantly Given this, we are trying to be as responsible as possible in crafting our 2021 budget.

We continue to discuss with our neighboring chapters ways in which to collaborate on projects and specifically augment our Self-Directed Program.

We raised over $250,000 restricted funds from exceedingly generous donors to help support our COVID-19 Relief Fund, Endowment and underfunded/nonfunded services.

As we begin planning our 2021 fundraising events, we sent out our 2021 Sponsorships packages. Our sincere hope is that they all occur ‘in person’.

We received the following grants –

  • $11,852 from The GLOBALFOUNDRIES- Town of Malta Foundation for a new
  • roof at our Malta Avenue home.
  • $1,500 from The Adirondack Trust Company Community Gift Program’s Lend-A-Hand grant to purchase supplies for Creative Endeavors Art Center.   
  • $1,000 from the WGY Christmas Wish Program to augment our Family Reimbursement Program.
  • $1,000 from the Hallam-ICS Giving Tree Fund to support the unanticipated COVID-19 expenses.

Glenn and Debbie Rockwood from The Barrier Box generously donated 5,000 face masks and 1,200 hand sanitizers last week.

We distributed our December Staff Appreciation gifts to continue expressing our gratitude for all their devotion. This month we gave a $50 Price Chopper Gift Card and a chocolate bar.

Our Residential Management Team visited our homes and brought treats and cheer.

Community is particularly essential in times of crisis, and we remain extremely appreciative in your confidence in our mission and purpose.  Together, we will work through this and be stronger, and kinder, to one another as we Build Bridges for a Better Future!  

From our Saratoga Bridges family to yours, I wish you a safer, healthier and more peaceful 2021. 

Stay strong and stay connected,

Valerie

 

November 24, 2020

Dear Family Members,

As we begin the holiday season, I wish to express my gratitude once again for my entire team who remain extraordinarily dedicated, compassionate, patient, flexible and dependable as we continue to live through these challenging circumstances.  I want to share and acknowledge that it truly is through their vigilance and sheer hard work, that everyone is doing well.  Our individuals and staff have been safe and healthy over the past 2 months due to our ability in adhering to the CDC guidelines as they relate to Personal Protective Equipment.  I am a believer in that when we use PPE correctly, social distance when possible, washing/sanitizing hands – we can minimize the spread of the virus.

I realize that for most of us, Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family and friends. That being said, we understand how much you all want to be together; however, I want to remind everyone to please make safe decisions in keeping your gatherings small.  Please communicate to your guests that if they are not feeling well, you understand if they do not accept your invitation.  I encourage everyone to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash hands for the length of time it takes to sing “We Wish you a Merry Christmas!”  I just want ALL of us to remain healthy these next several months.

In reviewing the activities of the last two months, I want to share the following:

  • Per new mandated regulations by Governor Cuomo, we updated our agency-wide Safety Plan to incorporate the new Travel Guidelines, Cluster Mitigation and Oversight of the risk and transmission of contracting COVID-19 for our individuals and staff.

 

  • We continue to expand day services at our 3 large Day Program sites by welcoming individuals who live with voluntary providers. Presently, we are providing support for 40 people at our Wilton Day Program, 55 individuals at our Alpha Day Program, 25 people at our Clifton Park Day Program and 18 individuals participating in our Without Walls program.

 

  • We established a new billing policy for attendance in our residential program in hopes of reducing the impact from the NYS budget cut which was implemented on October 1. The budget cut directly affects our reimbursement rate when an individual spends time on a home visits or extended vacation. The state is only reimbursing us at 50%. Our costs of providing crucial services do not drop to 50% when individual is not with us.  We do not change staff patterns and still have fixed costs like mortgages, utility bills and groceries. Our hope is that families understand this and will work with us to coordinate pick up and drop off times which will reduce this tremendous financial impact.

 

  • We revised our Family Visitation Policy in our houses and apartments. As the cold weather is upon us, we realized it is not conducive to have outdoor visits. We amended our policy to address these changes. Many of our present protocols will remain in place to protect the safety and health of everyone who lives and works in our houses and apartments.

 

  • We held our 3rd Family Meeting via Zoom on November 12 with the goal of keeping family members informed on agency issues. They were able to hear more about the importance of advocacy from a parent and Board Member Mary Jo Hebert. Mary Jo is on The Arc NY Board of Governors.  A platform for anyone to ask questions or express concerns.  It was recorded and will be shared with families this week.

 

  • We held a Planning for the Future informational event on November 20th. The Presenters were Ginger Whitman, Saratoga Bridges Foundation Board President and parent; Carol Obloy, Saratoga Bridges Foundation Board Secretary and parent; Christopher Spratt, Financial Advisor and brother; Erik Whittle, Financial Advisor and Saratoga Bridges Foundation Board Treasurer; Tara Pleat, Attorney and parent; and Matthew Dorsey, Attorney. They discussed the importance of the 3 corners or components that make up a viable and complete plan document:
  1. A plan for care
  2. Financial resources to pay for the plan
  3. Legal documents to support the plan

      If you are interested in obtaining information about future planning or would like to be included in our next session, please contact Kelly Armer at karmer@saratogabridges.org.

  • We began discussions with Saratoga County Department of Health in regard to our agency using our existing designated Point of Dispensing (POD) status for the implementation of a vaccination plan when the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. As we will be the second group to receive the vaccines, we are working on our POD being located at our Wilton Day Program. Our plan is to administer the vaccine to our individuals, staff and staff’s family members. More information will be shared as this good news becomes solidified.

 

  • Our virtual art, drama, music, yoga and dance classes (for people living in our homes or with their families) have been very successful in keeping people engaged. We are trying to meet the interests from those who have participated as best we can within our financial parameters and the logistics involved. Our hope is that these opportunities continue providing avenues for people to express themselves and remain connected to us. 

 

  • We remain committed to you and want to recognize and show appreciation for our devoted team. In November, we will be giving out $25 Price Chopper gift cards and fleece headbands donated by MVP.  In December, we will distribute another gift.  Brigid Riley, our Special Events Coordinator, created a wonderful poll of possible employee incentive gifts and sent it out to our staff.  We had 112 responses which we will use to going forward in determining what are most favorable to all of you.

 

  • Our last staff initiative, spearheaded by our Wellness Committee, is the four week ‘Pay it Forward’ challenge. In hopes of spreading positivity, we are asking staff to recognize when a co-worker is doing something above and beyond. There will be four winners who will receive Bridges Swag and a $50 gift card.

 

  • We continue to have conversations with the Management staff to discuss the financial impact of COVID-19 and the NYS budget crisis.  These funding challenges are directly affecting how we develop our 2021 agency budget. The information will be shared at our December benefit meetings.

 

  • Although our 20th Annual Great Pumpkin Challenge was virtual, we had over 440 runners participate and raised over $14,000 net. People really loved the shirts this year and we are thinking about having a hybrid option next year for people to continue to participate from wherever they may be located as well as in person in the State Park. It was exciting to have teams from Regeneron, MVP and TEL.

 

  • And lastly, as our foremost concern remains the health, wellness and safety of our individuals and staff, we continue to require crucial dollars for our COVID-19 Relief Fund. Designed to provide the essential resources for PPE, vital supplies, art materials, dance, music and drama classes as well as addressing the ever-changing needs as the crisis continues. Plus, we will use some of the funds for staff appreciation gifts as we feel it is necessary – especially now – to express how gratitude we are.

 

  • Can we count on YOU to give generously to our COVID-19 Relief Fund? Please consider making a donation at https://bit.ly/2J5fRgY. It is especially needed this year because we have already experienced cuts due to the escalating state deficit and expect more foreboding ones to come. Also, we have all of the unanticipated expenses incurred from the pandemic. 

Community is particularly essential in times of crisis, and we remain extremely appreciative in your confidence in our mission and purpose. Together, we are confident that we will work through this and be stronger, and kinder, to one another.  Please Share Your Joy of the season as we Build Bridges to a Better Future!  

From our Saratoga Bridges family to yours, I wish you a very safe, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season.

Stay strong and connected,

Valerie

Tuesday, September 29th

September has been a very challenging month for us.  And yet, our team proved to be even more compassionate, flexible and dependable.  I truly wish to thank all of the staff who stepped up to help us navigate through the confirmed positive COVID-19 cases we had!  This experience, with our individuals and staff testing positive, has certainly been something we have never faced.  I am thrilled to share that through their vigilance and sheer hard work, everyone is home and doing well.  As I write this update today, our homes that had mandated quarantines have had the mandates lifted by Saratoga County Public Health Services (SCPHS).

These are activities we have done during the month of September:

  1. We worked closely with SCPHS and neighboring counties DOHs to ensure we were in compliance with their and the CDC protocols. This included a joint press release with SCPHS to identify our 22 confirmed positive cases (10 individuals + 12 staff) and communicate our response to the confirmed cases.  We were mentioned on Spectrum News and the other 3 local TV stations, area newspapers and radio stations. 
  2. Even with the challenges of supporting our home affected by the virus, we still wanted to celebrate our amazingly committed Direct Support Professionals during the week of Sept 13-19 – Movie Monday with Malta Drive-In gift cards, Taco Tuesday with Taquero gift cards, Wear it Wednesday by encouraging staff to wear SB logo items to win a quarter zip pullover, Thankful Thursday with an Employee Recognition & Awards zoom meeting (Employee of the Year, Years of Service and Safe Driving Awards), Price Chopper gift cards and Creative Endeavors artwork and Friday with large insulated cooler bags featuring our #BridgesStrong logo and a mask donated by Max Su (read more in #4).
  3. While we paused welcoming individuals back to our site-based Day Programs, our goal is to reinitiate Phase 2 of providing services to individuals living with other voluntary agencies in October.
  4. Our friend Max Su reached his Facebook fundraising goal of $4,500 to have 1,000 washable masks made – complete with our name and logo.  Max said, “The individuals and staff at Saratoga Bridges hold a special place in my heart.  I ran a Drum Circle last summer and experienced what a great community they have built.  With the funds I raised for masks, I want to support the individuals and staff and provide them as much safety and protection as possible!”
  5. We finalized a plan to keep our PPE supplies in one location under the responsibility of the Director of Transportation.  This will ensure our inventory is easily accounted for.
  6. Not only are we offering virtual art and drama classes for people living with their families, we also began giving them the opportunity to take music classes.  This adds another means for them to express themselves and remain connected to us. 
  7. We recommended to The Arc of NY and other chapters around the state to implement a phone campaign to the NYS legislators and the Governor.  The advocacy effort focused on the elimination of the proposed Oct 1st cuts presently in the NYS budget.  Thank you to everyone who made calls and sent emails.  We would love to hear your feedback on they went.  Please continue to help advocating on behalf of your family members and our devoted staff.
  8. You can still become a Member!  Your crucial support is ALWAYS needed.  Join us at www.saratogabridges.org/donate-now-2
  9. Our Development staff held two ‘in person’ fundraising events – The 17th Annual J. Michael Fitzgibbons Memorial Golf Classic held on August 31, raised $35,000 net and our Virtual White Party with SPLASH of Color held on Sept 25 raised $50,000 net.  We are very grateful to everyone who participated and sponsored our events. Their generosity truly made them successful!
  10. We continued having conversations with the Management staff to discuss the financial impact of COVID-19 and the NYS budget crisis.  These funding challenges are directly effecting how we develop our 2021 agency budget.
  11. You can still donate to our COVID-19 Relief Fund to support all of the unanticipated expenses this pandemic has created.

I remain grateful to all of our families, confident we will continue to get through this and be stronger, yet kinder, to one another and believe we can accomplish anything by working together to ‘Build Bridges to a Better Future!’ 

Stay strong and connected,

Valerie

 

September 9, 2020

In our efforts to keep you informed, we are sharing the following –

Saratoga Bridges created many policies, procedures and mandated guidelines for our homes and apartments, and then for the reopening of our Day Programs which resumed after 5 months on August 3rd.  Despite, our best protocols, we sadly have several confirmed individuals and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19.  We have communicated with all the families and staff who have been impacted by the virus and are working with Saratoga County’s Department of Health’s contact tracers.

We have implemented our specific quarantine procedures in their home that were created with guidance from the CDC and DOH.  Our staff have been trained on using the required PPE and we are getting additional guidance from Saratoga County’s DOH’s medical specialists.  In particular, our nursing staff and DSPs are continuing to be vigilant in their efforts of keeping our amazing individuals and extraordinary staff as safe and healthy as possible.  If you have any other questions or concerns, please contact Valerie at vmuratori@saratogabridges.org.

Our thoughts and prayers are with our individuals, staff and their families as we truly hope for speedy recoveries for each of them.  We remain grateful for our team’s exceedingly hard work, commitment, patience, flexibility and dedication, and although these are such difficult challenging days, we will continue to get through this together.

Stay strong and connected,

Larry Fein and Valerie

 

August 24, 2020

Dear Family Members and Friends,

We are beginning our 24th week of COVID-19, which seems hard to believe, and thankfully we have not had a confirmed positive diagnosis of the individuals who live in our homes or apartments. This is due to the diligence our team is following based on the mandated protocols we have adopted.  A lot is transpiring that we want to share with you:

  • Our Reopening Plans, Signage, Checklists and Safety Plans for our Alpha, Clifton Park, Wilton, ACE and WOW Day Programs were submitted OPWDD. Fortunately, these were all approved.

 

  • On Monday, August 3, we resumed Day Programming by welcoming 77 individuals who live with their families. Our entire team is working hard to keep everyone as safe and healthy by minimizing the opportunity for the virus to spread.  Day service delivery is being implemented in 4 phases.  Phase 2 will bring back people who reside with other voluntary agencies, Phase 3 will welcome individuals living in state-operated homes and Phase 4 will include the individuals who live in our homes and apartments.  We continue to ask for everyone’s patience as we proceed through this challenging journey.

 

  • Our Residential Team finalized their policies and procedures for community outings and visits to and from family’s homes effective Friday, July 24. The mandated guidelines from the state continue to evolve as the Governor evaluates the state’s response to the pandemic.  Many families have visited their loved ones at their Saratoga Bridges’ home or taken them back to their family home.

 

  • We held 2 Employee Town Meetings via Zoom in lieu of our annual Employee Picnic. With over 100 staff participating, we discussed the status of all our myriad of services to ensure everyone is informed as possible. These were recorded and shared afterwards for staff who were unable to join us.

 

  • Because we did not have our Employee Recognition Picnic, we distributed $15 gift cards to Panera for staff to have lunch on us – Together but Apart! This was another opportunity for us to express our appreciation to our staff for all they have done these past 23 weeks.

 

  • We are thrilled to announce our Employees of the 2nd Quarter. Our Congratulations to these dedicated staff members – Laury Blake from Pleasant Street and Marissa Cornell from Geyser Road. We extend our appreciation to all the nominees as they continue to enrich, enhance and empower the lives of the people we support!

 

  • Our collaborative artists were thrilled to be a part of the Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts’ 5th annual NYS Summer Art Show. Celebrating the work of artists throughout NY, there are 171 pieces by 57 artists and 3 group projects including ours. Congratulations to our artists for their piece “Red Sail” won one of the three Honorable Mentions!

 

  • We are excited about a new venture SUNY Empire State College created – The Autism Research, Education, and Services (ARES) Center. It was developed in response to the growing need for professionals working with children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). ARES Center will partner with Anderson Center for Autism to develop academic programs that prepare the workforce to address educational, emotional and social needs of people with an ASD.  One of the proposed programs is a master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis that will integrate standard curriculum with the needs of individuals with an ASD.  The other aspect of ARES is that they with be offering opportunities to students with autism who need the additional assistance in becoming successful college students.

 

  • The Skidmore students ‘Better as One’ have worked with us to create 9 pairs of Bridges Buddies. With participants from California to Switzerland, we had an introductory zoom call to see everyone’s faces and to hear a little more about how it will work.  These virtual friendships will combine individuals’ interests to share art, games, letter writing, crafts and sports.

 

  • Habitat for Humanity’s Executive Director Adam Feldman generously donated of 7,500 washable masks for our staff and individuals. Adam told us “We chose Saratoga Bridges as we feel that you are a wonderful organization to support because of the amazing support you provide throughout the community!”

 

  • Our friend Max Su has created a Facebook fundraiser – https://bit.ly/3aT97fW – to raise money for masks complete with our name and logo. Max shares this, “The individuals and staff at Saratoga Bridges hold a special place in my heart.  I ran a Drum Circle last summer and experienced what a great community they have built.  With the masks donated, I intend to support the reopening of their Day Programs and hopefully volunteer there again.  Please help me provide them with as much safety and protection as possible!”

 

  • We were notified with the news that we have been approved to receive federally funds to support the extraordinary COVID-19 expenses we have incurred throughout the pandemic.

 

  • Art Coordinator Winnie Pino’s virtual art classes continue to be a hit for people living with their families or at our houses. The ability to express themselves and the camaraderie between each other has been outstanding.

 

  • We request your Call to Action in bringing Senators back to Washington and include us in the COVID-19 Relief Bill and PASS it ASAP – https://p2a.co/HUuxeVI Their support is CRUCIAL. Congress members passed legislation in May and they MUST HEAR this is a PRIORITY of their constituents!

 

  • We had 7 operational Board and Foundation Board Members participated in a Membership Drive on Monday, August 17. They called family members to request that they become MEMBERS and explained the importance of being a member of Saratoga Bridges.  You can still join at https://www.saratogabridges.org/donate-now-2

 

  • Congresswomen Elise Stefanik has been hosting NY21 Working Group Sessions to gather input from community members across her district to look for creative solutions in tackling the COVID-19 crisis. Our CFO Jane Mastaitis participated in one geared in finding how non-profits are faring. Jane advocated for more federal support for our services and programs.

 

  • Our J. Michael Fitzgibbons Memorial Golf Committee is planning a safe and enjoyable tournament on Monday, August 31 at The Edison Club. We believe it will be our largest tournament in its 16 year history – with the possibility of reaching our maximum number of golfers – 140!

 

  • Assistant Director of Communications Pamela Polacsek was interviewed by Benita Zahn. It will be posted on WNYT this week.

 

  • We will have our 2nd Family Meeting via Zoom on Wednesday, August 26th at 6:30 p.m. If you want to join us, please send an email to Pamela at ppolacsek@saratogabridges.org.  It will be recorded and shared afterwards.

 

I remain exceedingly grateful for our entire team!  Their patience, flexibility and dedication has resulted in our individuals being healthy, safe, connected, creative and happy.  I am confident that we will continue to get through this and be stronger, yet kinder, to one another.  I know we can accomplish anything by working together to ‘Build Bridges to a Better Future!’

Stay strong and connected,

Valerie

 

July 30, 2020

Dear Family Members and Friends,

Can this actually be the 19th week of COVID-19?  Thankfully, we are moving back into full swing of providing the myriad of services we pride ourselves on delivering.  Our Reopening Team has been spending untold hours discussing, developing, writing and training staff on our new policies, plans, procedures and contingencies which we are in the midst of fully implementing.   As we do not have a confirmed positive diagnosis of an individual residing in our homes or apartments, our ultimate goal is to have the proper mechanisms in place to ensure we minimize the spread of the virus in order to keep our individuals, staff and everyone’s circles healthy and safe.  This will take ALL of us working collectively to be exceedingly diligent and vigilant.  We ask that everyone strive to do everything possible in recognizing these mandated guidelines work.  Remember the 3 W’s – 1) Wear a Mask; 2) Watch your Social Distancing; and 3) Wash your Hands frequently and thoroughly!  

Here are highlights of what is transpiring at Saratoga Bridges –

–           Our Residential Team finalized their policies and procedures for community outings and visits to and from family’s homes effective Friday, July 24.  This is going well thus far, and everyone is thrilled to share their built-up love of missing each other all these months.  Anyone who has a loved one who wants to return to their house, please contact Heather Franke at hfranke@saratogabridges.org to discuss the process.  And, please contact the Managers to schedule family visits at this point.

–           After close to 5 months, Saratoga Bridges will begin to Reopen our Day Programs on Monday, August 3.  Keeping everyone as safe and healthy as possible will be our foremost concern as we forge ahead.   As I have indicated, this will be gradual phased-in process, beginning with individuals who are living with a family member. 

–           Due to the limit on people congregating, unfortunately we cannot have our annual Employee Picnic this year.  Instead, we are having 2 Employee Town Meetings via Zoom on Tuesday, August 4 at 3:30 p.m. and Wednesday, August 5 at 11 a.m. to check in with our staff , give them all of the necessary updates and to express our sincere gratitude for everything they have done these past 19 weeks and will continue to do as we gradually return to our full service delivery of programs.

–           The Arc Otsego’s juried art exhibition – Virtual Voice!16 – was held it via a flipbook. We are thrilled and so proud that Emily Brown’s acrylic painting ‘Waiting’ was featured on the cover and won the People’s Choice Award with a cash prize of $50. Kudos and Congrats Emily!  View our artists’ pieces at https://www.flipsnack.com/arcotsego/voice-16/full-view.html

–           Our Skidmore students ‘Better as One’ have worked with us to create 9 pairs of Bridges Buddies.  With participants from California to Switzerland, we had an introductory zoom call to see everyone’s faces and to hear a little more about how it will work.  These virtual friendships will combine individuals’ interests to share art, games, letter writing, crafts and sports.

–           We are exceedingly grateful for the wonderful donation we received of 1,000 masks from Max Su! He shared this with us, “Donating these masks to Saratoga Bridges is a wonderful cause because it offers so much safety and protection for the individuals, families and staff of the organization. Last summer, I ran a drum circle with the individuals and experienced what a great community they have created at Saratoga Bridges. I truly care about keeping them safe and healthy, as well as the staff who risk their own health to come into the homes of the residents during this quarantine and look after them.”

–           We are delighted and proud to share TJ Casey’s magnificent artwork as featured by Saratoga Arts for the July Art in Public Places virtual show.  Read his artist statement and watch a video of his work at – https://www.saratoga-arts.org/thomas-casey

–           Sandy Izzo, who coordinates our Creative Expressive Players, held weekly Google Meet sessions for 8-10 people who live with family members. They enjoyed catching up with each other and being able practice their lines.

–           Our Supported Work Program, Alpha Career Options, has had the vast majority of our individuals working at places like Price Chopper, Byron’s Village Market, The Wesley Community, McDonalds, Hannaford and Freedom Manufacturing LLC as “essential” throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They all shared that in the beginning they were afraid to go to work; however, with the requirements that they are mandated to follow, they are now not as concerned and truly want to be helping all of us!                 

–           Art Coordinator Winnie Pino’s virtual art classes continue to be a hit for people living with their families or at our houses.  The ability to express themselves and the camaraderie between each other has been outstanding.

–           We requested your Call to Action as federal funding for our retainer days ended on July 21st.  This funding has sustained Saratoga Bridges through closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We need Gov. Cuomo to support emergency funding and not to extend further cuts to agencies who support people with disabilities.  Please continue to let our NYS leaders hear your voice by clicking on – https://bit.ly/309X5eu. Stay tuned for more opportunities to advocate.

–           Why is it important to Tiffany for YOU to become a MEMBER of Saratoga Bridges? She shares her thoughts at https://youtu.be/9AqA48UY9I0. This year more than ever, MEMBERS will strengthen our state-wide voice, raise our visibility and create partnerships and collaborations in the community.  Tiffany encourages you to join at https://www.saratogabridges.org/donate-now-2/ so she and her friends can be successful and empowered!   

I continue to be grateful for their patience, flexibility and understanding in ensuring our individuals have remained healthy, safe, connected, creative and happy.  I am confident that we will get through this and be stronger, yet kinder, to one another.  By working together, I know we can accomplish anything by working together to ‘Build Bridges to a Better Future!’ 

Stay strong and connected,

Valerie

 

July 30, 2020

Dear Family Members and Friends,

Can this actually be the 19th week of COVID-19?  Thankfully, we are moving back into full swing of providing the myriad of services we pride ourselves on delivering.  Our Reopening Team has been spending untold hours discussing, developing, writing and training staff on our new policies, plans, procedures and contingencies which we are in the midst of fully implementing.   As we do not have a confirmed positive diagnosis of an individual residing in our homes or apartments, our ultimate goal is to have the proper mechanisms in place to ensure we minimize the spread of the virus in order to keep our individuals, staff and everyone’s circles healthy and safe.  This will take ALL of us working collectively to be exceedingly diligent and vigilant.  We ask that everyone strive to do everything possible in recognizing these mandated guidelines work.  Remember the 3 W’s – 1) Wear a Mask; 2) Watch your Social Distancing; and 3) Wash your Hands frequently and thoroughly!  

Here are highlights of what is transpiring at Saratoga Bridges –

–           Our Residential Team finalized their policies and procedures for community outings and visits to and from family’s homes effective Friday, July 24.  This is going well thus far, and everyone is thrilled to share their built-up love of missing each other all these months.  Anyone who has a loved one who wants to return to their house, please contact Heather Franke at hfranke@saratogabridges.org to discuss the process.  And, please contact the Managers to schedule family visits at this point.

–           After close to 5 months, Saratoga Bridges will begin to Reopen our Day Programs on Monday, August 3.  Keeping everyone as safe and healthy as possible will be our foremost concern as we forge ahead.   As I have indicated, this will be gradual phased-in process, beginning with individuals who are living with a family member. 

–           Due to the limit on people congregating, unfortunately we cannot have our annual Employee Picnic this year.  Instead, we are having 2 Employee Town Meetings via Zoom on Tuesday, August 4 at 3:30 p.m. and Wednesday, August 5 at 11 a.m. to check in with our staff , give them all of the necessary updates and to express our sincere gratitude for everything they have done these past 19 weeks and will continue to do as we gradually return to our full service delivery of programs.

–           The Arc Otsego’s juried art exhibition – Virtual Voice!16 – was held it via a flipbook. We are thrilled and so proud that Emily Brown’s acrylic painting ‘Waiting’ was featured on the cover and won the People’s Choice Award with a cash prize of $50. Kudos and Congrats Emily!  View our artists’ pieces at https://www.flipsnack.com/arcotsego/voice-16/full-view.html

–           Our Skidmore students ‘Better as One’ have worked with us to create 9 pairs of Bridges Buddies.  With participants from California to Switzerland, we had an introductory zoom call to see everyone’s faces and to hear a little more about how it will work.  These virtual friendships will combine individuals’ interests to share art, games, letter writing, crafts and sports.

–           We are exceedingly grateful for the wonderful donation we received of 1,000 masks from Max Su! He shared this with us, “Donating these masks to Saratoga Bridges is a wonderful cause because it offers so much safety and protection for the individuals, families and staff of the organization. Last summer, I ran a drum circle with the individuals and experienced what a great community they have created at Saratoga Bridges. I truly care about keeping them safe and healthy, as well as the staff who risk their own health to come into the homes of the residents during this quarantine and look after them.”

–           We are delighted and proud to share TJ Casey’s magnificent artwork as featured by Saratoga Arts for the July Art in Public Places virtual show.  Read his artist statement and watch a video of his work at – https://www.saratoga-arts.org/thomas-casey

–           Sandy Izzo, who coordinates our Creative Expressive Players, held weekly Google Meet sessions for 8-10 people who live with family members. They enjoyed catching up with each other and being able practice their lines.

–           Our Supported Work Program, Alpha Career Options, has had the vast majority of our individuals working at places like Price Chopper, Byron’s Village Market, The Wesley Community, McDonalds, Hannaford and Freedom Manufacturing LLC as “essential” throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They all shared that in the beginning they were afraid to go to work; however, with the requirements that they are mandated to follow, they are now not as concerned and truly want to be helping all of us!                 

–           Art Coordinator Winnie Pino’s virtual art classes continue to be a hit for people living with their families or at our houses.  The ability to express themselves and the camaraderie between each other has been outstanding.

–           We requested your Call to Action as federal funding for our retainer days ended on July 21st.  This funding has sustained Saratoga Bridges through closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We need Gov. Cuomo to support emergency funding and not to extend further cuts to agencies who support people with disabilities.  Please continue to let our NYS leaders hear your voice by clicking on – https://bit.ly/309X5eu. Stay tuned for more opportunities to advocate.

–           Why is it important to Tiffany for YOU to become a MEMBER of Saratoga Bridges? She shares her thoughts at https://youtu.be/9AqA48UY9I0. This year more than ever, MEMBERS will strengthen our state-wide voice, raise our visibility and create partnerships and collaborations in the community.  Tiffany encourages you to join at https://www.saratogabridges.org/donate-now-2/ so she and her friends can be successful and empowered!   

I continue to be grateful for their patience, flexibility and understanding in ensuring our individuals have remained healthy, safe, connected, creative and happy.  I am confident that we will get through this and be stronger, yet kinder, to one another.  By working together, I know we can accomplish anything by working together to ‘Build Bridges to a Better Future!’ 

Stay strong and connected,

Valerie

 

July 17, 2020

Dear Family Members and Friends,

We have spent the past week evaluating the Guidelines we received from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) late Friday evening on July 10th.   These incorporate the resumption of visits to and from family’s homes, community outings and reopening of Day Services.  Granted their effective date was Wednesday, July 15th, we have been working hard to implement safe and healthy protocols, policies, procedures and contingencies.

As I have been fortunate to share, over the past 18 weeks, our collective efforts have made ALL the difference.  Our ability to implement and follow the mandated guidelines established in March has resulted in our ability to mitigate and prevent a confirmed positive COVID-19 diagnosis of an individual residing in our homes or apartments.  This is directly due to the ongoing diligence and vigilance from our entire team! 

Keeping everyone as safe and healthy will be our foremost concern as we forge ahead.  Our Residential Team are finalizing the plans for community outings and the resumption of visits to and from family’s homes next week with the effective date being Friday, July 24th.  Anyone who has a loved one who wants to return to their house, please contact Heather Franke at hfranke@saratogabridges.org to discuss the process.  For family members who want to schedule a home visit, our staff are being trained on this process and further clarification will be forthcoming.

As I mentioned on Sunday, Reopening of Day Services will be a gradual process, beginning with individuals who are living with a family member.  This is much more involved as we recreate transportation routes and program delivery with the limited capacity and other required mandates.  Likewise, we will be training our team on all of these. 

You have our promise that we are working very hard to implement all of our protocols, policies, procedures and contingencies as quickly as possible.  However, we must continue to do everything we feasibly can to be as prepared, safe and smart to keep all of us well.  I will share the most updated information by email of those we currently have and on our website www.saratogabridges.org.  

Stay strong!

Valerie

 

July 12, 2020

Dear Family Members and Friends,

Finally, at 7:40 Friday evening, we received an email from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) Commissioner which lifts the previous orders established in March and gives their Guidelines for areas that are in Phase 4 to allow community outings as well as the resumption of visits to and from family’s homes.  Please understand that reopening of Day Services will be a gradual process.

We realize these are the updates you have been seeking while the Guidelines and Effective Date are what our Board and Management Team have been waiting for.  Now each agency must develop their own implementation protocols, policies, procedures and contingencies.

Please note these Guidelines are quite detailed in that they follow very specific conditions for health and safety protocols and that they will be strictly enforced. 

The information states that their Guidelines will take effect on July 15th which is just 3 days from now.  We thoroughly understand your hope and wish to have all if your loved ones return to their ‘normal’ schedules; however, we are asking for your patience as our Reopening Committee – comprised of administration, staff, Board Members and parents – continues to work methodically on our initiatives to implement our own protocols, policies and procedures.  These include finalizing transportation routes and program delivery with the limited capacity, restrictions and other required mandates.  Likewise, we will be training our team on all of these.  I want to reiterate that reopening of Day Services will be a gradual process.

Throughout these past 16 weeks, our foremost concern has been the health and safety of our individuals and staff.  We have continued to be as transparent as possible with the clarifications we have received from the Governor’s office and OPWDD.  Please know you have our promise that we are working very hard to implement these Guidelines as quickly as possible.  We will continue to share information on how and when services and other opportunities will resume so everyone is aware of what to expect.  However, we all must be prepared physically and mentally that if the numbers of COVID infections spike again in the Capital District, these new policies, procedures and protocols will be suspended again to minimize the spread of the virus.

Again, please be patient as we maneuver through the next several weeks.  Our ultimate goal is keeping our individuals healthy!  I credit our entire team on not having a positive COVID diagnosis amongst everyone who we support in our residential program.  We ALL must continue working collectively, diligently and vigilantly to ensure this remains.

Stay strong!

Valerie

July 6

Hello families and friends,

Summer is upon us as Governor Cuomo has allowed Saratoga County and the Capital District to proceed into Phase 4!  It is hard to fathom that we are in Week 17, and thankfully we still do not have a confirmed positive COVID-19 diagnosis of an individual residing in our homes or apartments.  I cannot express this enough as I credit the ongoing diligence and vigilance from our entire team as our collective efforts have made ALL the difference.    

Here are the activities of the week:

We have continued to try to obtain specific clarification from the Governor’s office and OPWDD on the most important issues effecting the individuals we support and their families to ensure we are as transparent as possible.  The information we have so far is as follows –

– We had hoped to have had a Re-Opening date for Day Services prior to July 4th.  This has obviously passed without any indication of this occurring.  Unfortunately, we are not hearing of another potential date, but believe it may not be announced until the end of the summer.

– Regarding individuals leaving their certified homes for family visits or family vacations, the state guidelines continue to state that if the individual leaves his/her home that we supervise, they would not be allowed to return until the Governor removes this guideline. 

– We also asked for clarification from OPWDD regarding community activities as to when they can begin fully participating in all our area has to offer.  The directives state that limited community activities are acceptable i.e. walks in the parks, van rides and going though drive-ins for coffee or ice cream.

– Governor Cuomo issued another Executive Order this past week pertaining to individuals who travel to or from states that have seen a spike in the number of confirmed cases.  The Executive Order requires the individual quarantine for 14 days upon returning to New York State.  As our staff are considered Essential Employees, we are requesting further clarification on this order to determine how quickly they can return to work and what additional criteria may or may not need to be adopted.

We understand this is not the information our stakeholders are looking for and share in their frustration, but these mandates are decided upon by the Governor and OPWDD.  Our goal is to continue developing creative ways to support our individuals and at the same time comply with these guidelines.  And, at the same time, our detailed plan, protocol and procedures for Re-opening Day Services are being developed so we can move ahead when we are given approval by OPWDD.

Art Coordinator Winnie Pino continue to hold virtual art classes at our homes and apartments as well as for individuals living with parents/guardian/family members.  This has been very enjoyable for everyone. 

We are hosting mini concerts, coordinated by Jackie Wright, with Bill Hebert & Wayne Clermont, John Muller & Pat Stallmer, Ron Baker and Dave Moore.  Our sincere thanks to all of them.

Christina Saccoia, one of our Behavior Specialists, continues to provide a weekly Zoom Mindful Relaxation classes.

The Administration Building’s Safety Plan, Policies and Procedures has been implemented as of June 25.  Signs have been posted around the building delineating all of the specifics.  This document will be used for the Safety Plan, Policies and Procedures in our other Day Program sites and buildings/facilities. 

Our Transportation staff completed our new Nature Trail behind our Administration Building while our Wellness Committee is creating signage to be posted throughout the trail.

Our COVID-19 Relief Fund campaign has raised over $50,000 to date.

We have begun our 2020-2021 Membership Campaign with our Board Member Kelley Morency as our Membership Ambassador.  We strongly encourage you to become a Member this year in particular as our collective voice is needed more than ever!

Please stay in touch with us for more legislative advocacy updates as we mitigate the financial implications facing New York State and how the potentially devastating cuts will directly impact our service-delivery systems.

We have weathered through the most challenging circumstances I have seen in 35 years working for Saratoga Bridges.  And, even with all that we are facing, I know we can accomplish anything by working together to ‘Build Bridges to a Better Future!’ 

Stay strong, healthy and connected,

Val

June 24

Hello families and friends,

We are thrilled to be in Governor Cuomo’s Phase 3 with Phase 4 right around the corner for Saratoga County and the Capital District!  As we are in Week 15 and past 100 days, I continue to believe that with every day, week and month passing, our collective efforts have made ALL the difference.  Our ability to implement and follow the mandated guidelines has resulted in our ability to mitigate and prevent a confirmed positive COVID-19 diagnosis of an individual residing in our homes or apartments.  This is directly due to the ongoing diligence and vigilance from our entire team!

Here are the activities of the week:

  1. Our Day Program Instructors continue enhanced person-focused activities at every house.
  2. Art Coordinator Winnie Pino is having virtual art classes at our homes and apartments as well as for individuals living with parents/guardian/family members.
  3. We have scheduled mini concerts at Ruggles Road (John Muller & Pat Stallmer) and in our Memorial Garden for individuals in our Without Walls Programs (Watch Reggie Run).
  4. Our residential Family Visitation Policy began on June 19 for our homes and apartments. Individuals and their families LOVED spending time together outside at their homes!
  5. We are continuing to develop plans for reopening Day Services when we are given approval by OPWDD.
  6. We finalized our Administration Building’s Safety Plan, Policies and Procedures. It goes into effect on June 25th.  This will be the foundation for the Safety Plan, Policies and Procedures in our other Day Program sites and buildings/facilities.
  7. We continue discussing the comfort and interest levels in returning to site-based Day Programs with the individuals who live in our homes.
  8. Our Transportation staff completed our new Nature Trail behind our Administration Building. This will provide an opportunity for everyone to enjoy our wonderful environment.
  9. We held our 2020 Annual Meeting in our Memorial Garden to re-elect our Officers of the Board of Directors for 2020-21. Board President Dr. Larry Fein delivered his poignant remarks pertaining to the State of our Union followed by Foundation Board President Ginger Whitman’s personal sentiments.  Our 2019 Annual Report was distributed and can be viewed at – https://bit.ly/2VgsSrb
  10. We expanded our face-to-face clinic services at Wilton and Clifton Park Day Programs.
  11. Our COVID-19 Relief Fund campaign has raised over $50,000 to date.
  12. We are monitoring the NYS budget significant shortfalls and the cuts being considered to reduce funding to OPWDD. Consequently, we need your help –

                                                                                                            CALL TO ACTION

The Arc New York and New York Disability Advocates are working to oppose proposed cuts that would slash funding to OPWDD voluntary providers like US. We need your voices to join the online advocacy platform https://p2a.co/65xBiDf by sending letters to Governor Cuomo and OPWDD opposing the cuts with just one click.

Please share these advocacy resources widely with your network and encourage families, staff, self-advocates and community members to send letters by July 1st.

As we begin to glimpse of what may be our new ‘normal’, I know we can accomplish anything by working together to ‘Build Bridges to a Better Future!’

Stay strong and connected,

Val

Saratoga Bridges Family Visitation Policy

Effective June 19, 2020

In an effort to have our individuals reconnect ‘in person’ with their families, we will begin to allow visitors into our homes based on the guidelines below.  To ensure we continue to minimize the spread of COVID-19, family members must adhere to this policy in order to visit their loved one.  At this time, individuals are still unable to leave our homes with their family member (s) due to the requirements we have already established.

  • All visitors need to call the Residential Manager at least 24 hours in advance to schedule a day/time to visit. This is to ensure that multiple visitors are not scheduled on the same day/time.
  • Visits should be limited to two family members at a time.
  • All visit must take place outside of the house. Our individuals will not be able to leave their home with their family member.
  • When a visitor arrives, they must ring the doorbell. Staff will come to the door and complete the screening outside with each visitor.  The visitor will be required to sign into the Visitor Log and must wear a face mask.  If the visitor does not have a face mask with them, we will provide one.
  • Once the visitor has passed the screening process, they will need to wait outside as staff will get their loved one. Every visit will occur outside.
  • Every home will determine a designated outside meeting space that is large enough to ensure the mandated 6-foot social distancing requirement including chairs being pre-set up.
  • Staff need to explain to our individuals on why the visits will occur outside, where they will take place and how the 6-foot distance will look.
  • Staff should make every effort to keep visits to no more than an hour to ensure there is time for all of the visitors.
  • If there is a confirmed positive diagnosis of any individual residing in one of our homes, family visits will be suspended until the quarantine is lifted.
  • Once visits are over, individuals need to sanitize their hands prior to going back inside the house. Staff will be required to sanitize the meeting area after every visit.

 

June 19

Hello families and friends,

The warmth of the summer is ushering in Governor Cuomo’s Phase 3 and hopefully Phase 4 re-opening plans shortly to Saratoga County and the Capital District!  This is indeed FABULOUS news to all of us.  As we are in Week 14, I feel our positivity, working together and following all of the mandated guidelines is why our area is moving forward to our ‘new’ normal.  I thoroughly realize it has NOT been easy for any of us; however, I believe this is why we still have not had a positive COVID-19 confirmed diagnosis of an individual residing in our homes or apartments.  This is due to the ongoing diligence and vigilance from our staff which we are most thankful for.

Here are the activities of the week:

  1. We continue to be extremely grateful to our team. This month’s appreciation gift are white and blue Bridges Strong baseball hats. They are also available to be purchased at – https://bit.ly/2UW4fA5.  In thinking positively, we agreed to sponsor the Saratoga Bridges softball team with hopes that league games may commence at the end of July.  Anyone who may be interested in playing can contact Brendan Armour at barmour@saratogabridges.org.
  2. We have incorporated Day Program Instructors at each home to continue enhanced person-focused activities. These include virtual art classes being facilitated by our Art Coordinator Winnie Pino.
  3. We had our 1st Bridges Family Meeting on Wednesday, June 10 via Zoom with 40 family members participating. The forum was videotaped – https://youtu.be/RkveE3aDqqM and Questions & Answers are attached and will be posted on our website.  This will be the first in a series to better update families on re-opening, the impact of COVID-19, program information, policy changes, legislative issues, advocacy efforts and upcoming fundraising events.
  4. We are continuing to monitor/assess the NYS budget problems and the plans that are being considered to reduce funding to OPWDD services.
  5. Our COVID-19 Relief Fund campaign has raised over $45,000 to date.
  6. We have scheduled mini concerts at Washington Street (Ron Baker), Meadow Rue Place (John Muller & Pat Stallmer) and Graves Road (Bill Hebert & Wayne Clermont). And, we are trying to organize a concert in our Memorial Garden for individuals in our Without Walls Programs.
  7. We developed a family Visitation Policy for our homes and apartments and trained staff on the new guidelines. It is https://www.saratogabridges.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Visitation-Policy-a.pdf.
  8. We are continuing to develop plans for reopening day services when we are given approval by OPWDD. This will include a Safety Plan which will address all of our sites, staff and individuals’ components.  The Safety Plan will be posted once approved.
  9. We began discussing the comfort and interest levels to return to site-based day programs with the individuals who live in our homes.
  10. We will be having our Annual Meeting to re-elect our Board of Directors’ officers for 2020-21 and to recognize the members of our Saratoga Bridges family who have passed away over the past 12 months.

As we begin to glimpse of what may be our new ‘normal’, I know we can accomplish anything by working together to ‘Build Bridges to a Better Future!’

Stay strong and connected,

Val

COVID-19 BENEFITS

June 17, 2020

Summer Camps and Child Care

We know that you may have heard of some benefits available to you because of new laws passed to support the workforce across our country during the COVID-19 crisis.  This can be a confusing time and we hope the following information is helpful to you.  We will continue to provide resources to you.

Please be aware that New York State provides a Capital District Child Care Coordinating Council as a resource for essential workers, to secure child care during the summer months. They can be reached at:  (518) 426-7181 or www.cdcccc.org

In addition to the council, the Malta YMCA offers full day child care through the summer months. They can be reached at: (518)-583-4342, ext. 173.

Also, the Saratoga Springs and Wilton YMCA provide summer child care.  For more information please contact Maureen Fay at: 9518)-583-9622, ext.1148 or Maureen.fay@srymca.org

State & Federal Tax Returns

Normally, personal income tax returns must be filed by April 15 each year.  Due to the Coronavirus  COVID-19 emergency, NYS and the federal government have extended this deadline until July 15, 2020.  In NY, if you had tax payments due on April 15 those may also be deferred until July 15, 2020 without penalties or interest.  See for more info:  https://www.tax.ny.gov/press/alerts/nys-tax-response-to-covid-19.htm

Student Loan Relief

Certain federal student loan payments (including principal and interest) will be temporarily suspended through September 30.  Interest will not accrue during this 6-month period.  Not every federal loan qualifies for this relief and borrowers should contact the company that services their loan to find out whether they qualify for this relief.  For more information click here: https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus

Life, Property (Homeowners and Renters) & Casualty Insurance

If you have a life insurance policy and can demonstrate financial hardship, you may qualify for relief for 90 days from the payment of your premiums.

For property (homeowners and renters) and casualty insurance policies, you may also qualify for a 60-day grace period for the payment of premiums if you are experiencing financial hardship.

You should reach out to your insurance carrier for more details.

Health Insurance

If a loved one loses their job due to COVID, you may be able to apply with NYS for coverage.  Visit www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov or call 855-355-5777 for additional information.

Emotional Support Resource

NY has made an emotional support line available for any New Yorker experiencing increased anxiety due to this crisis.  The line is staffed by volunteers, including mental health professionals, with training in crisis counseling.  The number is 1-844-863-9314.

 

 

 

 

June 3

Hello families and friends,

When the sun shines, we can all go outside, enjoy our beautiful area and get some exercise.  This certainly helps to improve our spirits and uplift our moods!  As we are in Week 12, I feel our positivity has been what keeps us moving forward together and the reason why I continuously am proud of our team.  Most importantly, we still have not had a positive COVID-19 confirmed diagnosis of an individual residing in our homes or apartments.  This is due to the ongoing diligence and vigilance from our staff which we are most thankful for.

Here are the activities of the week:

  1. The Day Program Coordinators contacted individuals living at home with family members to obtain their feedback on returning to a site-based Day Program.  The survey requests their interest, preferred means of transportation and comfort level in wearing a mask.  We will use this information to create our Reopening Plan once OPWDD establishes a Day Program opening date.  We will then survey the individuals who live in our homes and apartments to determine their feedback pertaining to the same questions.
  2. We have incorporated Day Program Instructors at each home to continue enhanced person-focused activities.
  3. Four Board Members from our Operational Board have been added to our Reopening Committee
  4. We collaborated with The Arc NY and all our sister chapters to request feedback with re-opening our Day Programs.  The survey can be accessed at – www.surveymonkey.com/r/88CN2PS.  Please fill in Valerie Muratori’s name in the Interviewer Name box.  The information also will help educate our legislators and governmental leaders on the needs of their constituency.
  5. We will have our 1st Bridges Family Meeting on Wednesday, June 10 from 6-7 p.m. via Zoom hosted by Larry Fein, President of the Board of Directors and me.  An email invitation was sent to our current list of families.  We encourage you to share this flyerhttps://bit.ly/2Xuq9Mt – to invite other families.   As the number of participants is limited through Zoom, RSVP to Kelly Armer at karmer@saratogabridges.org by 6/8.  A follow up email will be sent with a Zoom link and Phone Numbers. This will be the first in a series to better update families on re-opening, the impact of COVID-19, program information, policy changes, legislative issues and advocacy efforts.
  6. Unfortunately, due to the mandates on social distancing and limited numbers of people who can gather, we cannot celebrate ‘in person’ at Saratoga National Golf Club.  While we are disappointed, The Show Will Go On for ‘The White Party with a Splash of Color’ as it is being  re-envisioned in 2020!
  7. We began to educate ourselves on the NYS budget problems and the plans that are being considered to reduce funding to OPWDD services.
  8. Our COVID-19 Relief Fund campaign has raised over $40,000 to date.
  9. We have scheduled mini concerts at Geyser Road (Erin Powers), Locust Grove Road (John Muller & Pat Stallmer) and Grooms Road (Bill Hebert & Wayne Clermont).

We are thrilled to share our transformed Virtual Celebration which will include:

  • An Online Silent Auction from September 17-24
  • Culminating with a Live Event on Friday, September 25 from 5-7 p.m.
  • Live Entertainment and Premiere Auction, Contests and More
  • It will be Free and Open to everyone
  • Please visit our Facebook and Instagram often to obtain all of the exciting details.

Our other fundraising events will be:

  • The 17thAnnual J. Michael Fitzgibbons Golf Classic will be held on Monday, August 31st at The Edison Club
  • NYRA has yet to announce the date for Travers Day 2020 or whether spectators will be allowed on premises – thus our plans are in flux
  • The 20th Annual Great Pumpkin Challenge is scheduled for Saturday, October 10

Our team knows how very challenging every aspect of this COVID-19 crisis has and continues to be.  The new ‘normal’ has yet to be completely defined, but I have no doubt they will work together to ‘Build Bridges to a Better Future!’

Stay strong and connected,

Val

 

May 27

Hello families and friends,

We finally have beautiful weather and the sunshine helps all of us keep a more positive outlook!  For me, this positive outlook, as we are in Week 11, is carried forward with my ability to communicate that we still do not have a confirmed diagnosis of the COVID-19 virus in our homes and apartments.  Again, I want to acknowledge the great work all of our staff have done over these challenging weeks.

Here are the activities of the week:

  1. Our Re-Opening Committee continues to meet weekly in preparation for a ‘gentle’ re-opening of our site-based Day Programs.  The tasks targeted for this week include:

          Creating a Comprehensive Plan that incorporates —

  • sanitizing and disinfecting all of our properties and vehicles
  • developing a Training Plan for all staff in relation to their role to sanitize
  • Making a Check list that documents work has been completed
  • Having the Program Coordinators reach out to all individuals, who are living at home with their family members, to discuss their comfort level in returning to a site-based program
  • Having the Development Department staff develop a Communication Plan that uses the recent updated email contact list to better inform and educate families more expeditiously and more efficiently on significant changes brought on by the COVID-19 virus
  • Another committee has been created to research other program models that will keep individuals safe and at same time provide person-centered community integrated opportunities
  1. We provided Community Hab services to over 35 individuals who had not received community hab prior to the pandemic.
  2. We began discussions on protocols for new admissions and returning individuals who were living with their families back into our homes. 
  3. Our COVID-19 Relief Fund campaign has raised over $39,000 to date.
  4. We have continued our mini-concert series with concerts at Ruggles Road (Jess and Erin Powers), Birchwood Road (John Muller & Pat Stallmer) and Pleasant Street (Bill Hebert & Wayne Clermont). Watch all videos at – youtube.com/channel/UCUp-5JN1UtBKGqdUsWPf0-w/videos
  5.  We are finalizing the dates for all of our 2020 fundraising events.

I continue to be proud of our highly caring, dedicated, kind, respectful, flexible and patient professionals.  We all know the past 10 weeks have very challenging, but the commitment they have made to our individuals, is a promise that guides us in every difficult moment during this unfamiliar pattern of our days.  Together, we will ‘Build Bridges to a Better Future!’ 

Stay strong,

Val

 

 

 

May 20

Hello to our families and friends,

We have successfully made it into week 10 and I am pleased to communicate that we thankfully still do not have a confirmed diagnosis within our homes or apartments.  Again, remain very proud and grateful to our entire team for keeping everyone safe and healthy!

The activities of the week include the following:

  1. We continue to prepare for the reopening of our services. Governor Cuomo announced the Capital District should be able to begin opening for business this week. The first phase is targeted towards manufacturing and construction. We still believe that we will be in the 4th phase (last unfortunately) and be grouped with nursing homes. This is likely to be the middle or end of June for us to re-open. In determining our reopening plan, we are considering reducing the number of people in classrooms (for social distancing requirements), the number of individuals riding together in our vehicles (again for social distancing requirements), and the schedule for sanitizing and cleaning all of our sites.
  2. We have begun reaching out to families to find out what their comfort level is for their family member to return to a site-based program.
  3. We have continued our mini-concert series with concerts at Malta Avenue (Art & Shawna), Lemont Avenue (John Muller) and Middle Grove Road (Bill Hebert & Wayne Clermont). Watch all of them at – www.youtube.com/channel/UCUp-5JN1UtBKGqdUsWPf0-w/videos
  4. We have temporarily removed license plates from 45 vehicles that are not being used now in order to reduce our liability insurance and thereby reduce costs.
  5. We continue our COVID-19 Relief Fund campaign and have raised over $34,000 to date.
  6. We received feedback from our event sponsors and are reassessing all of our 2020 fundraising events.
  7. We have begun to plan for our Annual Meeting which is scheduled for June 22nd.  Our hope is the weather will cooperate so we can hold it in our Memorial Garden.
  8. We are taking photos of staff with lawn signs that say, “We’re Grateful For Our Essential Workers” and sharing them on social media platforms.
  9. We are continuing to improve our ability to communicate expeditiously and efficiently with families as our staff are calling to request and update all pertinent information including email addresses.
  10. We will be postponing our annual Employee Recognition Picnic until Wednesday, September 16th to be held in conjunction with our annual Direct Support Professionals Week.

Our team is profoundly caring, dedicated, kind, respectful, flexible and patient.  These past 9 weeks have not been easy for anyone; and yet, they have one priority – to ensure our individuals and each other are healthy, happy, engaged and happy.  They continue to meet each challenge, and I know we will join together to ‘Build Bridges to a Better Future!’

Stay strong,

Val

 

May 13

Hello to our families and friends,

We are now in week 9 of our COVID-19 world and I am pleased to again share that we thankfully still do not have a confirmed diagnosis in our homes or apartments.  Again, I want to express my ongoing gratitude to our team for their commitment of ensuring our individuals are receiving the best care to keep them healthy and safe!

The activities of the week include the following:

  1. We have attended a variety of webinars by The Arc New York and other statewide providers with the focus on reopening all our services.  Governor Cuomo has established a 4-tier plan once a region has been approved to re-open their businesses, facilities, etc.  As of today, the Capital District region (in which we encompass) has not been approved for re-opening based on the criteria developed by the Governor and his taskforce.  We believe that once our region is approved, we will fall in the 4th tier.  This means we are looking at a mid or late June to reopen our myriad of services.  We anticipate that OPWDD will ask us to submit a plan on how we will keep individuals and staff safe through the transition.  Accordingly, we have established a committee to prepare for reopening.  As work progresses, I will continue to keep everyone updated.
  2. Assistant Director of Family and Community Supports Sarah Slagle provided Community Habilitation training to various staff who will be giving this opportunity to 30 individuals living with their family members.  This is in lieu of Day Services until they resume.
  3. We purchased lawn signs that say, “We’re Grateful For Our Essential Workers!”  These are placed at all our homes and day program sites.
  4. We are continuing to improve our ability to communicate expeditiously and efficiently with families as our staff are calling to request and update all pertinent information including email addresses.
  5. We have reached out to our donors and sponsors to encourage their feedback on our fundraising activities for 2020.
  6. The Development Department has raised over $33,000 for the COVID-19 Relief Fund which includes the “Better as One” campaign created by 3 Skidmore students.
  7. Our Transportation staff are food shopping for all of our 18 homes to reduce the time residential staff has in public environments.
  8. This week, we have 2 mini concerts planned – Padriac Decker at Loughberry Road and at Bill Hebert & Wayne Clermont at Squashville Road.  All our concerts are being videoed, featured on our social media platforms and available to watch at – www.youtube.com/channel/UCUp-5JN1UtBKGqdUsWPf0-w/videos  Next week, we have Art & Shawna at Malta Avenue and are scheduling others.  Please let Jackie Wright know if you have a hidden musical talent or know someone who would be interested in our outdoor mini concert series.
  9. Jamie-Lee Greene, one of our Program Coordinators, organized an art project in which coloring sheets were sent to all our houses.  She created this lovely video – www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6UJTdJLd4M&feature=youtu.be to showcase their pieces.

I continue to be very proud of our team for their commitment, flexibility kindness, patience and dedication.  Despite all these challenges, their priorities are to ALWAYS keep everyone safe healthy, happy, engaged and happy.  I am confident we will get through these remaining days apart by working together!

Stay strong,

Val

 

 

May 5

Hello all,

First, I want to thank our entire team for continuing to provide the best care to everyone who lives in our homes and apartments.  As we are now in week 8 of our COVID-19 world, we thankfully still do not have a confirmed diagnosis in our homes.  I believe this is due to the diligent practices they have all embraced!

The activities of the week include the following:

  1. The Development Department created a COVID-19 Relief Fund webpage, email blasts, posts on our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), highlighted Giving Tuesday and are sending a letter this week.  We have received $29,515 in donations as of today, including an anonymous $20,000 matching gift. Please share the information on your own Facebook pages!  Also, they are working with 3 Skidmore students who created their own campaign for us called “Better as One.”  They have raised an additional $3,060 for us.
  2. Our Transportation staff have been food shopping to reduce the time residential staff has in public environments. They have assisted Southbury Road and Grooms Road and will be helping Graves Road and Birchwood Drive next week.
  3. Last week, we had our first 2 mini-concerts at Washington Street and Graves Road (please see the short videos on our Facebook page).  On Thursday, John Muller, who volunteers with One Voice, will be performing at Finley Road and Bill Herbert’s band will be playing at Graves Road. We hope to continue scheduling several more each week. Please let Jackie Wright know if you have a hidden musical talent or know someone who would be interested in our ‘outdoor concert series.’
  4. We continue to develop the work plan for our recently approved Strategic Plan; however, we recognize the pandemic has impacted the timing of the Strategic Directions and its imperatives.
  5. The Transportation staff graciously volunteered to help the Saratoga Salvation Army distribute 1,200 lbs. of food yesterday.
  6. Jamie-Lee Greene, one of our Program Coordinators, organized an art project in which coloring sheets were sent to all our houses.  She is creating a virtual art show of their pieces.
  7. The Development Department is working on our 2020 events.  They are making alternative plans for The White Party as the July date and the historic format will not be possible in July.  They are researching other ideas, venues and dates for the fall.  The J. Michael Fitzgibbons Golf Classic is still scheduled for Monday, July 20th.  The Travers Day at the Races is undecided due to NYRA’s indecision of how their Saratoga Meet will operate.  The Great Pumpkin Challenge is still tentatively scheduled for Saturday, October 10th.
  8. We are beginning to strategize how/what re-opening our Day Services will look like and what systems will need to be implemented to keep individuals and staff safe.  We believe that we will not be allowed to open any Day Services until we develop a plan and that it is approved by OPWDD.
  9. We welcomed a young woman into our apartment program on May 1st and are developing the transition plan for 2 individuals who we had hoped to support prior to COVID-19.
  10. We are continuing to look at budgeted capital projects that are not indoor or house projects.

I continue to be very proud of our team for their commitment, flexibility, patience and dedication.  These are challenging days, but we will get through them by working together!

Stay strong, Stay safe and Stay connected,

Val

 

 

 

April 28

We are now in week 7 of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, we can continue to report that we do not have a confirmed diagnosis of anyone living in our homes or apartments.  Several staff have been tested for a variety of reasons and as of this report, all their tests have come back negative.  At this point, we have an inventory of PPE supplies for approximately 4 weeks.

These are the activities of the week:

  1. We have added more homes to our Transportation’s staff shopping schedule.  Grooms Road and Finley Road are using this opportunity.  Next week Graves Road and Birchwood Drive will benefit from the service.
  2. The weather finally cooperated yesterday as we held outdoor performances by Guitarist/Singer Kristi Blow at our Washington Street home and Bagpiper Seth Rosan at our Graves Road home to the sheer delight of our individuals and staff.  Next week, weather permitting, we hope to find ‘Elvis arriving outside the Building’ as well as our Board Member Mary Jo Hebert graciously volunteered her husband Bill’s band to come entertain at another house.
  3. We received a nice care package containing 10lbs. of ground coffee, 100 coffee pods and 48 cans of sweetened cold brew from Death Wish Coffee thanks to our Residential Administrative Assistant Heidi Eustis.  Heidi graciously submitted a request for our extraordinary staff upon hearing the contest offer DWC held on WEQS.
  4. We developed a plan to offer 50 individuals Community Hab services either remotely or by activities that use social distancing (rides or walks).  These individuals live either independently or with their families.
  5. We are prepared to welcome a new individual into our apartment program on May 1.
  6. We have begun to ascertain how our services will operate both internally and throughout the community once the ‘Pause’ is lifted.
  7. We have provided opportunities for people to donate to our COVIFD-19 Relief Fund.  In addition to our social media platforms and e-blast request, we will be sending out a letter to our stakeholders educating them on the purpose of our special spring appeal.  As of this date, we have raised $27,575.  Also, a group of Skidmore students have created a ‘Better as One’ campaign to raise funds on our behalf. 
  8. We are continuing to recruit for residential staff members to be better prepared staffing-wise when our Day programming services are open and day staff return to their positions.

I remain very proud of our entire team.  Their vigilance to minimize the spread of the virus is indeed working.  Each day is a new challenge, but together we are working 24/7 to best support our individuals and each other.  Certainly, with the sun shining and warmer temperatures, all of us will be happier being able to be outside.  And, this can only uplift our spirits!

Stay strong, Stay safe and Stay connected,

Val

 

 

 

 

 

Good afternoon,

Please be advised the Governor has issued Executive Order 202.16, which requires all businesses or entities to provide “face coverings” to employees when those employees are “in direct contact with customers and members of the public.” This Executive Order goes into effect today, Wednesday, April 15 at 8 p.m. 

According to additional guidance provided by the State, direct contact with the public includes any employee who is routinely within close contact (i.e. six feet or less) with members of the public, including but not limited to customers or clients. Interaction between co-workers is not considered direct contact with the public. Face coverings include, but are not limited to, cloth (e.g. homemade sewn, quick cut, bandana), surgical masks, N-95 respirators and face shields. Employers must pay for face coverings for their employees. Employees may use their own face coverings, but cannot be mandated to do so by their employer. 

Saratoga Bridges has been providing and requiring surgical masks for employees working in the residences and will continue to do so. For those of you who have employees working in the residences and providing direct support to individuals, please ensure those employees are complying with the requirement. For those of you who have employees working in locations other than the residences, please be sure those employees have a face covering on hand and that they wear the face covering if or when they are interacting with anyone other than a co-worker (surgical mask is not required for these employees). For example, HR Generalists meeting with or interviewing an applicant on-site must wear a covering.

 

April 22

We are now in week 6 of our new COVID-19 world.  As of today, we thankfully still do not have a confirmed diagnosis in our homes.  I believe this is due to the diligent infection control practices we have all embraced!  We have 2 staff who have been released from DOH quarantine and have returned to work.  Another staff member has been recently quarantined in his mother’s home (a Saratoga hospital employee has tested positive for the virus).  He works in our Maintenance Department, and as support staff has had little contact with our individuals or other staff.

The activities of the week include the following:

  1. The Development Department created a COVID-19 Relief Fund webpage, email blast through Vertical Response and posted the information on our social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  We have received $27,000 in donations as of this morning.  These include 2 large gifts – $20,000 from an Anonymous Donor and $5,000 from Bob and Deidre Relph – as well as numerous individual donations.  We encourage everyone to share the information on their own Facebook pages.  Also, they are creating a letter to be sent as our Spring Appeal in lieu of our request for Builders Society funding. 
  2. GLOBALFOUNDRIES generously donated 2,000 surgical masks and 1,200 gloves.
  3. We participated in a webinar to prepare for the changes in our funding over the 30 to 45 days.  In pursuing this new model, we will be reaching out to individuals who are living with families and have historically received Day Services.  We will be offering them Community Habilitation services during the period when our Day Programs remain suspended. Community Habilitation services can be provided through Zoom, FaceTime or in van rides/walks if families are comfortable with this.
  4. Our Transportation staff will be food shopping to minimize the time our residential staff is in public environments.  The first home which is will be onboard is Southbury Road.  Our intent is to add Grooms Road next week.
  5. We scheduled 2 mini concerts this week – an acoustic guitarist for Washington Street on Wednesday will be postponed due to the weather and a bagpiper for Graves Road is still on for Friday.  Both will be photographed and videoed to share with families and social media.
  6. We gave all full-time staff thank you gifts which included a $50 gift card to Price Chopper, candy, a homemade mask made by many staff and others from the community and a card that expressed our gratitude for their dedication, flexibility, patience and understanding.  This impacted over 400 employees.
  7. We completed the preliminary application for FEMA in order to pursue reimbursement for PPE supplies.
  8. We confirmed a date for CQL recertification to be last week in September of 2020.
  9. We continue to develop the work plan for our recently approved Strategic Plan; however, we recognize the pandemic has impacted the timing of the Strategic Directions and its imperatives. 
  10. We continue to showcase the good work being done by our hardworking, caring ‘Essential’ staff throughout our social media, an article which will appear in the Saratoga Today on April 24 featuring Dawnmarie Costantino and Sloan Russell and in an interview Valerie and Pamela did via Zoom will LOOK TV.

I continue to be very proud of our team for their commitment, flexibility, patience and caring for the individuals we support.  These are challenging day, but we will get through them by working together! 

Stay strong, Stay safe and Stay connected,

Val

April 15

We are now in week 5 of our new and challenging world.  I want to recognize and express my gratitude to our entire team for their commitment, flexibility, patience and caring for the individuals we support.  We would like to acknowledge that we still do not have a confirmed case in our homes. This is directly due to the diligent infection control practices we have all embraced.

The activities of the week include the following:

  1. Human Resources and the Business Department have working together to ensure the B fair to Direct Care increases are incorporated into the April 17th payroll for all DSPs and support staff
  2. We have been working with area sewers who are volunteering to make homemade masks for our staff to use on outside of their hours working for us
  3. We have received 5,000 surgical masks to ensure that all of our staff have them to wear while working in our homes as we are now mandated to do so
  4. We have recruited a variety of entertainers who are interested in performing mini concerts at our homes.  Our first concert will be at Washington St. early next week.
  5. The Wellness Committee and our Behavior Specialist/Psych staff are gathering information/activities for staff to reduce stress that can be incorporated into our daily lives
  6. We are completing a Medical Certification class with several Transportation staff who have volunteered to take so that they can be an additional resource in our homes
  7. Our Transportation staff have begun moving Creative Endeavors to their new studio space which will be in the building between our Alpha and Administrative buildings.  This will be completed by May 1.
  8. With the cost of PPE and cleaning supplies becoming quite significant, we have are directing our Builders Society – Spring Appeal to support these expenses
  9. We listened to a 2 hour panel discussion by the downstate chapters on how they have navigated this crisis
  10. We will be meeting with our team to determine how incorporate their best practices
  11. We are continuing to highlight the good work being done by our hardworking, caring Essential staff throughout our social media and have created the hashtag #WeAreEssential and #BridgesStrong

These are indeed challenging times, but together we will get through it.  That being said, I understand this environment is stressful and one can get discouraged or depressed.  We are encouraging our staff to talk to someone within our Saratoga Bridges family – friends, supervisors or through our EAP Program.

Stay strong,

Val

 

Good afternoon,

We are now in week 4 of the pandemic and continue to be fortunate not to have confirmed case within our residential program. Unfortunately, we have one staff member who is in mandated quarantine from the Department of Health due to being in contact with an individual who is a confirmed case.  Fortunately, the individual who is confirmed is not a Saratoga Bridges employee.

Here are the activities we have accomplished this past week:

  1. We established our Wilton Day Program as the quarantined site if an individual living in our Residential Program has a confirmed diagnosis and is not in need of hospitalization. We have a clean room with hospital beds and necessary supplies to support an individual as they convalesce.
  2. We created a schedule of nursing coverage for Wilton Day Program if we need to implement it. We met with all of the nurses and asked for volunteers to cover the care during the time if needed.  They all were very gracious in volunteering for shifts.
  3. We developed protocol of care for an individual while receiving care at the Wilton Day Program.
  4. We have mandated that while working in our homes/apartments, all staff must wear surgical masks provided by the agency.
  5. We are trying to keep the necessary PPE supplies on hand to ensure everyone is safe. Presently, we have enough PPE supplies onsite for the next 2 weeks. We are expecting more products to be delivered over the next 7 days.
  6. Our Transportation staff have been shuttling mail and PPE supplies to our 19 homes every day.
  7. As of today, we have not had any problems obtaining groceries at Price Chopper or Hannaford; however, we established a business relationship with 2 food distributors if needed in the future.
  8. We are educating ourselves as quickly as possible on FEMA opportunities for reimbursement of emergency supplies.
  9. We are hoping to schedule some performances at our homes next week (weather permitting) with local musicians.

I want to say that the changes we implemented are definitely keeping our individuals and staff safe and healthy but need to remain vigilant in our efforts to help prevent the spread of this illness.  Also, the ongoing dedication, flexibility and support of our staff has been exemplary.  Our Boards, Management Team and families are so grateful for all of their hard work and understanding.  Although this has been very challenging, I am confident we will all pull it together. Lastly, I would like to thank Donna Giffune, our Alpha RN, for her Daily Shout Outs.  Her positive words are providing an opportunity for us to stay connected and inspired. 

If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact me at vmuratori@saratogabridges.org or 518-587-0723 ext. 1251.  And, I will keep you updated as we move through this uncharted crisis.  We all realize this is a very challenging time, but I am confident that we will all make it through it.  

Stay strong, stay safe and stay healthy,

Valerie

 

 

 

CORONAVIRUS – COVID-19 BENEFITS

April 1, 2020

We know that you may have heard of some benefits available to you because of new laws passed to support the workforce across our country during the Coronavirus – COVID-19 crisis.  This can be a confusing time and we hope the following information is helpful to you.  We will continue to provide resources to you.

Economic Impact Payments

The federal government will be sending out relief checks to a large number of people as follows:

  • $1,200 – if you file your taxes individually and have an “adjusted gross income” of no more than $75,000
  • $2,400 – if you file as a married couple with a joint return and your income is no more than $150,000
  • Parents also receive $500 for each qualifying child
  • Checks should begin to be issued around the third week of April

For more information visit: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know

State & Federal Tax Returns

Normally, personal income tax returns must be filed by April 15 each year.  Due to the Coronavirus  COVID-19 emergency, NYS and the federal government have extended this deadline until July 15, 2020.  In NY, if you had tax payments due on April 15 those may also be deferred until July 15, 2020 without penalties or interest.  See for more info:  https://www.tax.ny.gov/press/alerts/nys-tax-response-to-covid-19.htm

Evictions & Foreclosure Proceedings Relief

On March 20, NYS announced that for the next 90 days there will be no enforcement of eviction proceedings for residential leases and that mortgage foreclosure proceedings will be suspended for 90 days.  This does not necessarily mean that your rent or mortgage payments are not due or that it is waived.  It means that your landlord cannot evict you for nonpayment of rent for at least 90 days (until about mid-June).  For more information click here:  https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/no-2028-continuing-temporary-suspension-and-modification-laws-relating-disaster-emergency

Student Loan Relief

Certain federal student loan payments (including principal and interest) will be temporarily suspended through September 30.  Interest will not accrue during this 6-month period.  Not every federal loan qualifies for this relief and borrowers should contact the company that services their loan to find out whether they qualify for this relief.  For more information click here: https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus

Life, Property (Homeowners and Renters) & Casualty Insurance

If you have a life insurance policy and can demonstrate financial hardship, you may qualify for relief for 90 days from the payment of your premiums.

For property (homeowners and renters) and casualty insurance policies, you may also qualify for a 60-day grace period for the payment of premiums if you are experiencing financial hardship.

You should reach out to your insurance carrier for more details.

Health Insurance

If you or a family member find yourself without health insurance, you may be able to obtain coverage through NYS during a special enrollment period that runs from 4/1-4/15.  In addition, if a loved one loses their job due to COVID, you may be able to apply with NYS for coverage.  Visit www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov or call 855-355-5777 for additional information.

Emotional Support Resource

NY has made an emotional support line available for any New Yorker experiencing increased anxiety due to this crisis.  The line is staffed by volunteers, including mental health professionals, with training in crisis counseling.  The number is 1-844-863-9314.

 

 

 

 

March 30, 2020

Hello all,

It is Week 3 of the Coronavirus epidemic and thankfully we do not have a confirmed case within our Residential Program.  We are aware of an employee who is a confirmed case but this staff member has not been in program in over 2 weeks.  The employee is a support staff who had minimal contact with program services. There are 2 staff members who are on precautionary quarantine due to secondhand contact with an individual who has a confirmed diagnosis.

Here are the items we have activated the past week:

  1. New schedules for Day Program staff began on Saturday, March 28.  They have been assigned specific open positions in the houses.  These changes are temporary and when the crisis is over, staff will be able to return to their original positions.
  2. We have developed a new vendor relationship for supplies such as masks, gowns and gloves.  Bill Miller, our newest Foundation Board Member who owns Performance Industrial, is generously donating 350 gowns to us.  The Arc NY is working hard to keep supply systems open.
  3. We have distributed iPads to the houses so individuals can reach out and connect with their families if they have ability to do so.  We are working on a phone tree concept in which staff can call/Facetime/Skype with individuals in their homes. This would facilitate keeping contact with them, expressing how much they miss one another, reassuring each other, telling them to stay strong and sharing it will end sooner than later.
  4. Our Custodial staff are going into the houses later in the evenings to do thorough cleaning of living rooms, kitchens and bathroom areas.
  5. Our Transportation staff are helping with painting in our empty Day Programs, shuttling product/agency mail to the homes and staffing in the homes.
  6. We have been working closely with The Arc NY as it relates to the emergency funding being allocated and the process needed to access these dollars.
  7. We have been notified by the State that we are not able to offer our present residential openings to the individuals who are interested until the stay-at-home directive is lifted.
  8. Our IT staff are coordinating all of our tech capabilities including conference calls and Zoom meetings.

Again, I cannot say enough about the commitment, flexibility and caring all of our Saratoga Bridges staff have shown over these past weeks!  It is to be commended and greatly appreciated by the Board of Directors, Management Team and family members.  We are thrilled to recognize and highlight our staff with #WeAreEssential on our social media platforms. .

Stay strong,

Val

 

March 23, 2020

Good afternoon Parents, Family Members, Guardians and Community Members:

We begin another week of unprecedented issues with the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  Every day, things are changing; however, our foremost concern remains the health, wellness and safety of our individuals and all of our dedicated staff members.  I want to express my gratitude to our entire Team for their ongoing commitment to the people we support, their co-workers and the agency itself. 

In an abundance of caution, we made decisions last week to help minimize the spread of the virus in our organization.  Please note Saratoga Bridges does not have a confirmed case of Coronavirus as of Monday, March 23rd.  This is due in part of how willingly our staff have embraced the recommendations of the local, state and federal Departments of Health and Centers of Disease Control.

As of March 22nd, we were notified that we should make every effort for non-essential staff to work from home.  Effective March 23rd, the majority of our Administrative, Program Coordinators and Behavioral Support will be working from home.  And, we now believe that Day Services will continue to be suspended into the month of April. Because of this, I want to update everyone on what will be occurring:

  1. All staff will have work plans developed with their Supervisors to be implemented over the next 5 days
  2. We are recording new messages on our phone systems that state our Day Programs are suspending services and callers can contact us through 518-587-0723
  3. We are making every effort to hold meetings through Conference Calls, Zoom or Skype
  4. We are notifying all DSPs and nurses that they are deemed Essential Staff by the mandate from Gov. Cuomo and it is crucial they report to work during these challenging times
  5. We are giving all Essential Staff letters to carry with them that identify them as essential in case they are stopped by Law Enforcement
  6. We are establishing a plan in which DSPs, Employment Specialists and Bus Monitors are assigned to a specific Residential schedule
  7. We are entering into agreement with Sysco if we require a need to purchase items in bulk
  8. We are developing a plan to provide OT, PT and Speech Services in certain homes
  9. We identified one of our sites if there is a need to initiate a significant quarantine plan

The good news:

  • We have a supply of masks, gloves and protective clothing products – Thankfully Mildred Elley donated 200 masks and 500 gowns on Friday, March 20th.
  • Telemedicine (accessing providers online) is up and running with our first call this weekend. The Dr. was able to assess, diagnosis and prescribe medication without the individual leaving home.  
  • The Arc of NY has been working closely with us and advocating with OPWDD to develop an emergency funding source for revenue lost from Day Services and the increase costs from Residential Services.

I want to reiterate the necessity for the changes we are implementing. This includes keeping our individuals safe in their homes and continuing to provide employment for all of our staff.  It is our ultimate goal, once the pandemic is over, for all staff to return to their positions.  We will remain vigilant in our efforts to help prevent the spread of this illness.

Again, I want you to know that the ongoing dedication our staff have exhibited has been exemplary.  Their commitment, flexibility, understanding and support has not gone unnoticed by our Board of Directors and Management Team. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact me at vmuratori@saratogabridges.org or 518-587-0723 ext. 1251. 

I will keep you updated as we move through this uncharted crisis. We all realize this is a very challenging time, but I am confident that we will all make it through it.  

Stay strong,

Valerie

 

March 19, 2020

Dear Parents, Family Members, Guardians, Medical Professionals and Staff Members:

As we continue through these unchartered waters with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), every day our way of life is changing.  I want to emphasize our foremost concern is the health, wellness and safety of our individuals and dedicated staff members.  As such, our administrative staff have been meeting and receiving daily updates from The Arc New York, The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), Saratoga County Department of Health, New York State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. It is important to note, Saratoga Bridges does not have a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Due to the directive we received this morning, in an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19, OPWDD is requiring a temporary suspension of visitation to our residential programs – effective immediately. This includes our 19 homes and supported apartments.  We will be implementing these policies as well:

  • Every visitor who must come to the house will be screened for symptoms (cough, shortness of breath and fever) or potential exposure to someone with COVID-19
  • We will post signage notifying every one of the suspensions of visitation policy

We fully recognize the emotional impact these restrictions are causing during this crisis; however, it is a necessary precaution as we work to minimize transmission of COVID-19 in our community and risk to our staff and the people we support. To continue balancing the social-emotional needs of our individuals, we ask for you to please contact the Residence Manager to coordinate your communication options with your loved one.

We are continuing to seek specific guidance from the local, state and federal health officials and will keep you apprised.  To that end, we have added a link on our Saratoga Bridges website to provide the most current information and updates.  We encourage you to refer to the website.  Please know we will remain vigilant in our efforts to help prevent the spread of this illness and our highest priority is the health, well-being and safety of our individuals and staff. Community is essential in times of crisis, and we appreciate your support and understanding as we work to sustain our connections in creative ways. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact me at vmuratori@saratogabridges.org or 518-587-0723 ext. 1251.

Thank you for your understanding and support.

Regards,

Valerie A. Muratori, Executive Director

 

March 17, 2020

I want to take a moment to first express my appreciation to our staff on behalf of our Management Team, Board of Directors and family members.  Their unwavering support for our individuals and fellow co-workers truly makes me proud to represent all of them.

I do want to update you on the status of the Coronavirus and its impact on Saratoga Bridges. Directives and communication with state have literally been changing from hour to hour. Communication from OPWDD began on Saturday to identify that individuals living in our ICFs were to remain at home, visitation should be limited and that all staff working within 6 ft of an individual should be wearing a mask. Communication then occurred Sunday, that all agencies needed to develop a plan to suspend Day Services for all individuals living in a certified residential program. And then, as of 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17th, we were notified that all Day Services will be suspended for everyone including individuals living with a family member effective 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17th.

We wanted to provide you with a better perspective of everything that has transpired:

  1. We have signage at all of our sites and houses to identify health safety requirement for visitors
  2. We are reminding everyone to wash their hands and follow all of the directives provided by the Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control
  3. We are prescreening all visitors before welcoming them into the programs
  4. We are keeping a sign in sheet at all sites and houses for visitors
  5. We sent letters to families, staff and providers with the above information
  6. We created a Coronavirus Updates link on our website to keep stakeholders knowledgeable of our policies and procedures
  7. On Monday, March 16th, the Management Team met to review and confirm staff assignments in our homes and to confirm Day Services would be suspended for individuals living in certified residences effective Tuesday, March 17th
  8. A second letter was developed and sent to families, providers and staff
  9. At the request of OPWDD, we submitted a plan for the suspension of services, the number of individuals impacted and the plan for individuals living with family members
  10. On Tuesday, March 17th, we provided Transportation and Day Services for 50 individuals who live with their families
  11. As of 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17th, we contacted all the families who have their loved one living with them that we have been mandated to suspend all Day Services
  12. We are asking families if they are need of some type of support due their own employment needs
  13. We are submitting a second report to OPWDD as it relates to the impact of halting services for individuals living with a family member. Our plan requires us to develop alternative services for this group of individuals
  14. As it relates to our 19 homes, Day staff members are assisting Residential staff and will receive back up with our Program Coordinators and LPNs.
  15. We are evaluating how our Clinicians (OT, PT, Speech and Behavioral) will be providing services in the homes
  16. Transportation staff are being cross trained in various capacities
  17. We have inventoried our supplies and medical needs and placing orders
  18. We are researching and providing staff with alternative childcare options
  19. We are sharing information as quickly as possible with all of our stakeholders during this very challenging, every-changing crisis

Again, I want to thank all of my dedicated team. Their commitment does not go unnoticed.  Hopefully, we will weather this crisis and be back to our usual programs, services and activities much sooner than later.

Please feel free to contact me at vmuratori@saratogabridges.org or 518-587-0723 ext. 1251 if I can assist with further questions you may have.

Stay healthy,

Valerie A. Muratori, Executive Director

 


March 16, 2020

Dear Parents, Family Members and Guardians:

As you know, we are experiencing unprecedented events with the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Every day, things are rapidly changing. Our foremost concern is the health, wellness and safety of our individuals and staff. As such, our administrative staff have been meeting and receiving daily updates from The Arc New York, OPWDD, Saratoga County Department of Health and the New York State Department of Health.

It is important to note, while Saratoga Bridges does not have a confirmed case of Coronavirus, in an abundance of caution we have made several decisions to help minimize the spread of the virus in our organization. We have implemented a policy and process for handling visits to our facilities by non-staff members and our custodial staff has taken additional steps to ensure cleanliness by disinfecting our buildings including doorknobs,hardware and hand railings as well as our vehicles.

Due to the directive we received yesterday, we are suspending day services for individuals living in certified residences as of Tuesday, March 17th for a minimum of 2 weeks. This includes our 19 homes, supported apartments as well as the other providers we work with – the state, AIM, Living Resources, Center for Disability Services, Vanderheyden and Wildwood. We will be continuing to provide day programming for individuals who live with family members or independently. These decisions are to limit the exposure of the Coronavirus. We understand that this is a tremendous disruption; however, it is a necessity. Your support is fundamental.

We are continuing to seek specific guidance from the state or local health officials and The Arc New York and will keep you apprised. To that end, we have added a link on our Saratoga Bridges website to provide the most current information and updates. We encourage you to refer to the website.

Please know we will remain vigilant in our efforts to help prevent the spread of this illness. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact me at vmuratori@saratogabridges.org or 518-587-0723 ext. 1251. Thank you in advance for your understanding and support.

Regards,

Valerie A. Muratori, Executive Director

March 11, 2020

Dear Parents, Family Members and Community Members:

At this time, Saratoga Bridges does not have a confirmed case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our programs, however, we are aware of concerns in the community about the spread of this relatively new virus. The agency is closely monitoring this situation and following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the New York State Department of Health, Saratoga County Department of Health and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).

If the agency becomes aware that an individual or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19, we will immediately notify all appropriate stakeholders including parents, family members and guardians. If an individual or staff member shows respiratory symptoms, we will follow our current practices for handling respiratory illnesses, subject to any additional guidance forthcoming.

The agency has infectious disease protocols in place and has been taking steps including cleaning and disinfecting throughout our programs to minimize the spread of viruses and a variety of other illnesses. There are a number of steps that individuals, staff and community members can take to minimize the spread of all respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

  • Heavily soiled hands need to be thoroughly washed

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick

  • Stay home when you are sick

  • Cover our cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

If you or a family member begin showing symptoms of a respiratory disease and suspect it may be COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider. Before going to your healthcare provider’s office, inform them that a case of COVID-19 is suspected and follow their advice.

We are including our new Visitor Policy created by OPWDD to better inform you as to our changes. These will be in place until we are told otherwise by OPWDD.

Families are also encouraged to follow the CDC’s information for travel, available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index./html. For more information, please consider consulting these additional resources:

  • Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/

ncov/faq.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019- ncov%2Fstigma-faq.html

Please know that, as always, the health and safety of our individuals and staff is our highest priority, and we will remain vigilant in our efforts to help prevent the spread of this illness. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact me at 518-587-0723 ext. 1251.

Regards,

Valerie A. Muratori, Executive Director