Dear Bridgewell staff team:
Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed the holiday season and 2021 is off to a good start for you. I know 2020 was a very challenging year, but I am optimistic about our path ahead in 2021, particularly as the COVID-19 vaccines are now being rolled out. Today is an exciting day; individuals and staff in 19 of our residential programs will be getting the first dose of the highly effective COVID vaccine. Over the next few weeks, those in all other residential programs will be receiving the vaccine. This is a huge step forward in bringing this pandemic under control, and getting vaccinated when you’re eligible is so important to prevent getting sick with COVID-19 disease.
Many of you are on the front lines, working with individuals in our services and at risk being exposed to COVID-19 each day on the job. Your work is so important – and you are among the first group eligible to receive the vaccine because of your essential role in fighting this pandemic. At this point, direct care staff who work in our congregate care settings such as group homes are included in Phase 1 of the Massachusetts rollout plan, so they are eligible to be vaccinated in the coming weeks.
If you are eligible for Phase 1, I strongly encourage you to get vaccinated now. It will help protect you and the individuals you care for who are at risk for severe illness from COVID-19. This is an opportunity for you to serve as a role model in our community, and by getting vaccinated first, you can positively influence your co-workers, friends, and family members to get vaccinated when they’re eligible. I look forward to my opportunity to get vaccinated when I am eligible, which will be in Phase 3 of the rollout plan.
To offer convenient access to the vaccine, we have partnered with Walgreens to provide on-site COVID-19 vaccination for individuals and staff, free of charge, who are eligible for vaccination in Phase 1. Details about these on-site vaccination clinics at our direct care locations will be shared in the coming days. Walgreens will be using the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine when providing vaccinations to our Phase 1 eligible staff.
I understand some of you who are eligible to get vaccinated in Phase 1 may be apprehensive about getting the vaccine so early in the rollout process. I encourage you to explore these resources posted on the CDC website to educate yourself about the vaccine: Vaccine Facts, and view this informative video: The Facts About COVID-19 Vaccines for Direct Support Professionals. Please also reach out to your primary care physician if you have specific questions or concerns about the vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccines are key to helping bring an end to the pandemic, but some of us will have to wait a few more months to receive the vaccine. It is critical that all of us continue to follow the current guidance to protect ourselves and others, including wearing a mask, staying at least six feet away from others, avoiding crowds, and washing hands often. Even individuals and staff who are vaccinated will need to continue with these protective practices.
Thank you all for your ongoing efforts to keep individuals in our programs and your co-workers safe and healthy.
President and CEO
Please click here for Bridgewell’s updated Visitation Guidelines letter from Chief Operating Officer, Elaine White, effective Monday, December 14, 2020
November 9, 2020
Dear Bridgewell Family Member and Guardians,
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Bridgewell has been extremely vigilant with its health and safety practices as we continue to navigate COVID-19. We realize that this has been challenging for all and it has been our goal to keep you informed and to share our practices.
Massachusetts is currently experiencing a surge in positive cases and Bridgewell is also experiencing an increase of cases among staff and individuals. Bridgewell was fortunate over the last few months to be COVID-free.
Since we are experiencing an increase in COVID cases we are making the difficult decision to change the current visitation policy effective Thursday, November 12th. While these changes may feel uncomfortable we feel it is necessary to ensure the health and safety of those we serve and the staff that work with our individuals every day.
Our new visitation guidelines are as follows:
I know that the holiday season is right around the corner and the change in policy may feel restrictive. During this time we will continue to work with you to make sure that we continue to facilitate video or zoom visits. It is our goal and I am sure it is yours, to ensure that Bridgewell remain as free from COVID as possible. It is our hope that our routines will return to normal soon.
Thank you for your cooperation in ensuring the health and safety of all at Bridgewell.
Elaine M. White
Chief Operating Officer
The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS) have updated their visitation policies to include guidelines and requirements for indoor visitations, effective as of October 1, 2020.
July 16, 2020
Dear Parents and Guardians,
I hope this email finds you and your family well and enjoying the summer. I recently joined Bridgewell as its Vice President, Day Habilitation & Community Engagement and I am delighted to be here.
Now that Massachusetts has entered Phase 3 of its reopening plan, one Bridgewell day habilitation program and some aspects of its programming will begin on July 27. Based on federal and state mandates and guidelines for reopening, we will be taking a conservative, staggered approach. This is to ensure that we are in compliance with the state as well as for the sake of everyone’s health and safety.
The MA Department of Developmental Services has stipulated that the first priority group for day programming participation is for people who are currently living with their families or independently and not in a congregate care setting. We have identified and invited 15-20 Rosewood II participants who meet the state’s reopening guideline criteria to begin with us on Monday, July 27.
We will be evaluating and monitoring program operations closely and making adjustments and changes as needed. Bridgewell has a plan for how we will move forward with opening the other day programs and will make announcements around those openings as we get closer to those dates. We will identify and invite participants from each of these programs in advance, and we will be in direct contact with parents and guardians with the details.
Please know we are doing our utmost best to welcome back as many people as we can and as safely as possible. In addition, we are also actively developing new day programming initiatives and delivery methods to provide participants with more day programming options. We recognize that until there is a vaccine widely available, day programming will not be as it was prior to closing in March. I hope to have more information on new programming to share with you soon.
I ask for your collaboration and patience as we forge this new ground together. I know this is not an easy time for you, your family and your loved one and we want to support you as best as we can. If you have any questions, please contact your day program manager directly.
Vice President, Day Habilitation & Community Engagement
Dear Family, Guardians and Bridgewell community,
On July 2, 2020, EOHHS released guidelines and protocols regarding the reopening of day programs. This coincides with Massachusetts entering Phase 3 of its reopening plan on July 6th.
In preparation for Phase 3, Bridgewell has been working to develop safety protocols and standards so that we are ready to re-open in a fashion that ensures that everyone is safe. As you can imagine there is a great deal that needs to be in place to ensure the safety of each person in our services and our staff. Our goal is to open our day programs slowly and thoughtfully, one at a time, starting later in July.
When we do re-open, we will focus on limiting on-site capacity and keeping a healthy distance during service provision. Bridgewell is working to develop a hybrid approach to day programing, combining on-site and remote services as well as developing services that can be delivered in a family’s home.
The reopening will start with people who are living at home with loved ones coming back to day programs. That will be followed by people who live in shared living and/or their own apartments and lastly people who live in residential settings.
In the coming weeks, I will provide more detail regarding the reopening of day programs. For now, I appreciate your patience as we work to build and then communicate detailed plans for a smooth, safe and successful reopening!
President & CEO
July 2, 2020
Dear Parents and Guardians,
I am pleased to share with you that the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS) has announced guidelines for expanded on-site visitations and the commencement of off-site visitations, effective July 3, 2020. I also want to share the attestation form that DDS requires parents/guardians to submit when the person served returns to their residence from an off-site visit as well as an updated visitor screening form.
These guidelines and attestation and visitor screening forms insure visitations adhere to recommended DDS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic. As the situation continues to evolve and based on specific circumstances in a residence, the guidelines are subject to change. We will do our best to provide as much advance notice as possible.
We are glad that the people in our services are now able to be with their families for extended on-site and off-site visits. Please connect with your residential manager on any questions you might have and to arrange a visit.
Kelly Pottie, Vice President of Residential Living
June 8, 2020
Dear Parents and Guardians,
I am pleased to share with you that the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS) has announced that visitations can resume beginning Wednesday, June 10. Please find below the guidelines under which visits will be conducted. These guidelines insure visitations adhere to recommended DDS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic.
These guidelines are subject to change as the situation with the pandemic evolves and based on specific circumstances in a residence. We will do our best to provide as much advance notice as possible. Thank you in advance for your understanding, flexibility and assistance in following the established guidelines. We look forward to reuniting the people in our services with their families. I know this has been a hardship for families and persons served to not see their loved ones. Please connect with your residential manager on any questions you might have and to arrange a visit.
Vice President of Residential Living
Residential Program Visitation Guidelines
June 5, 2020
Dear Parents and Guardians,
I hope this email finds you and your family well. I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on new protocols that will be in place for our Day Habilitation Programs and residential program visitations when they resume operations.
Residential Program Visitations:
Currently, we have not received any new information from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) when on-site visitations can resume. It is my understanding we should be receiving guidance soon. When visits resume, the following steps will be in place:
These are Bridgewell’s guidelines. When we receive the DDS guidelines there could be additional steps and protocols that will need to be followed. Once visitations begin again and the steps are implemented, we may need to make adjustments on the above so as to continue to be responsive.
We understand the hardship families are feeling. We are working closely with DDS on reopening our programs for visits. These are unprecedented times and we want to make sure the procedures in place ensures the highest level of safety for everyone and limits the transmission of COVID-19.
Day Habilitation Programing;
At this time there is no timeframe for day programing to resume. There are many factors at play and it’s our sincere hope that our day programs are able to open in some capacity this summer. When day programs do reopen, we have begun to develop protocols that will be in place. Please note that the following is a draft and subject to change.
Reopening Day Program Preliminary Procedures
As we learn more I will update you. As a reminder, every Thursday I record a weekly message for parents and guardians at 339-883-2201 with the most up to date information. Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment. We will all get through this and we will be a stronger community for it.
President & CEO
To: DDS Individuals and Families
From: Commissioner Jane F. Ryder
Subject: Coronavirus Update for Individuals and Families
Dear DDS Community:
Much has happened in the weeks since my last message. I’d like to provide an update on the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) response to COVID-19 as of Friday, May 22. As experts predicted, Massachusetts saw a surge of positive cases of COVID-19. We have experienced the surge across our programs and we have mourned the loss of those in our community — individuals we serve, coworkers, colleagues, friends, and family.
Now, after more than two months of staying home and tough protective measures, such as restricting all visitation, we are beginning to flatten the curve. The number of new positive cases identified each day are starting to decrease as we continue to socially distance and increase our access and efforts around testing. By engaging in distancing and protective measures, together we have saved lives. We must continue to remain vigilant as we move toward a new normal.
I have been so impressed with your resourcefulness and resilience in this uncertain time. I have heard wonderful stories of families finding new ways to connect remotely and staff going above and beyond during this public health crisis. We have seen big and small acts of creativity, commitment, and compassion in our community every day.
As Massachusetts and the nation look toward a slow and cautious reopening, our priority at DDS is the health and safety of the individuals we serve and our staff. We will continue to focus on three key factors to keep people safe: infectious disease precautions, personal protective equipment (PPE), and testing.
I know there is anxiety and many questions around re-opening. Visitation, day and employment programs, and transportation are at the front of our minds. As we look to restart operations, we are committed to making this process as smooth and safe as possible. This means making decisions based on data and following the latest advice from public health experts. While we don’t have all the answers today, we look forward to hearing your ideas and feedback.
DDS is actively working with public health experts on safe visitation protocols that will keep you, your loved one, and their caregivers safe. We will announce any updates to the current visitation protocol as soon as we are able. Additionally, we are working with our provider community to plan the path forward for day programs and transportation services. We will continue to communicate with you as plans develop.
In the meantime, we want to hear your ideas. Let us know the biggest ways in which all this is impacting you and what you’d like to see from us. As we work through the rest of this pandemic — as always — please feel free to get in touch and give us feedback through our website or share ideas with your Service Coordinator.
Your Area Office is here to support you and will remain in contact with you to ensure your loved one is receiving services and both your needs are addressed. We will update the DDS website and social media as information becomes available.
Please see below for further updates about the DDS response to COVID-19.
Jane F. Ryder
Department of Developmental Services
DDS-funded Family Support Centers continue to provide assistance and support to families through this crisis and are here for emergency support and information about local resources. Please contact your DDS Area Office if you need help connecting with your local Family Support Center.
To keep your loved ones and their caregivers safe and healthy, in-person visitation to group homes and residential facilities remains prohibited, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end-of-life. DDS is actively working with public health experts on safe visitation protocols to help you see your loved ones in a way that keeps you, your loved ones, and their caregivers safe. We will announce any updates to the current visitation protocol as soon as we are able.
Guidance for Residential Programs and Facilities
DDS has been focused on providing clear guidance to support residential programs and facilities in order to best care for the individuals we serve. Beyond the guidance document for residential programs (last updated April 13), DDS has also organized for infectious disease consultation services to be available. The staff at the Hogan Regional Center and Wrentham Developmental Center, our state-operated group homes, and provider-operated group homes continue to consult with infectious disease specialists to provide care and ensure operational protocols meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) guidelines and standards.
Access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
We are working in collaboration with DPH and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to continue to procure and provide access to PPE and cleaning supplies, and DDS programs have an adequate supply to meet needs. DDS state-operated homes and facilities submit lists of their current supplies and their needs semiweekly, while DDS providers may request emergency PPE through MEMA.
We are continuing to provide testing to residents and staff in DDS state-operated or provider-operated residential programs through a partnership with Fallon Ambulance and MassHealth. As of May 20, Fallon has visited over 1,300 DDS sites and tested over 16,000 individuals and staff. DDS and its provider agencies have also organized over 30 testing pop-ups across the state to provide greater access to testing for those who work most closely and do the most for the individuals we serve. So far, we have tested over 4,500 staff at these pop-up sites. DDS has also created social stories and checklists (both visual and audio resources available on our website) to help prepare individuals for swab testing or a mobile testing visit. DDS Offices Regional and Area Offices remain closed to the public for visitation. Please contact your Area Office by phone or email regarding services and supports, and our staff will return your message.
If you or anyone in your family has symptoms of illness (fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) or potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus, please take these steps:
For the latest information on COVID-19, please call 2-1-1 or visit: mass.gov/covid19
Disabled Persons Protection Committee (DPPC)
To report suspicion of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse or neglect of a person with a disability, contact the DPPC 24-hour hotline:
Supportive Technology Stories
DDS would like to feature stories of success with supportive technology so others may see the uses and benefits of these tools. If you’ve had success using supportive tech, such as tablets, voice assistants, telemedicine, or remote services, let us know. Get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @DDSmass to share your story.
Bridgewell’s Day Habilitation Programs, Employment Support Programs and Transportation Services will not be opening on Monday, May 4 due to Massachusetts extending the non-essential business closures and stay at home advisory until May 18. We have not yet been notified by the Commonwealth when these programs can reopen. We will notify you as soon as we hear; it will not necessarily be May 18. These programs are closed until further notice. Thank you.
Bridgewell needs your help right now! This past week, all state employees who work in I/DD group homes received a $5 or $10 per hour “hazard pay” increase for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, but there was no “hazard pay” allocated for the staff of community providers, like Bridgewell. Tell Governor Baker to rectify this disparity for essential staff immediately by granting the same “hazard pay” during the COVID-19 crisis that was provided to their state employee counterparts.
Have your voice heard and act now!
Time is of the essence to have an impact.
From Bridgewell’s President & CEO
You hear everyone saying these are unprecedented times, and they are. It’s very unsettling for us all. But at Bridgewell, we continue to support the people we have the privilege of serving just as we did last month and last year. We have made adjustments, accommodations and taken extra precautions to follow the CDC’s and the Governor’s guidelines, but Bridgewell staff continues to provide consistency, comfort, and safety to the people in our services.
We often hear that we need to remember and thank hospital staff and first responders because they are on the front-lines, and we should thank them. But society also needs to remember the countless front-line staff who work in 24/7 residential programs, recovery programs, and mental health clinics.
These staff members are not working from home. They are leaving their families and the security of their homes to work and care for a population who needs them. These staff members are essential to the wellbeing of thousands. The majority of staff at Bridgewell are front-line, dedicated staff who are working tirelessly to ensure the individuals and families in Bridgewell services are well cared for.
It is during times like this that you see the best in humanity. Over this past week, I have seen the best of Bridgewell. I am incredibly proud of our community. Staff has stepped up and met this crisis head on while assuring that everyone is well cared for. So, when you come across a Bridgewell residential, clinical, or support staff please take a moment to thank them for their sacrifice and commitment.
With deep appreciation and gratitude to our almost 1400 employees.
– Chris Tuttle, President & CEO