Published: March 10, 2021
March 10, 2021
On March 10, 2020 Governor Baker declared a state of emergency for Massachusetts due to growing concerns over the spread of coronavirus infections. On March 13, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services for Massachusetts closed all day programs and put restrictions in place for all congregate care programs. That was one year ago and life has changed dramatically. As we mark this anniversary, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the impact of this pandemic and how it has affected all of us. I also want to recognize the resilience and triumph that has been on display for the past year.
With more than 29 million COVID cases diagnosed in the United States to date, all of us have been impacted directly by this virus. Most of us know someone who’s been diagnosed with COVID, or perhaps have personally tested positive for the virus. The stress, grief and loss that this pandemic has caused cannot be understated – and the emotional toll that it has taken on all of us will take years to heal. For some, healing from this past year may never be fully realized as they’ve had to say goodbye to loved ones. It is important for us to continue to support and love one another during these difficult times.
At Bridgewell, 302 staff and 156 individuals have tested positive for coronavirus since March 2020. Staff, individuals and families have dealt with unprecedented challenges. Our staff have been on high alert for 12 months, doing their best to keep those we have the privilege of serving protected and healthy. Bridgewell’s frontline staff have worked under increased stress as they cared for individuals in our programs and also for themselves and their own families. But through all the grief, sadness and stress, what has been truly remarkable is the dedication and compassion the Bridgewell team has demonstrated during this time.
Bridgewell’s residential programs have been essentially locked down for a year, which at face value seems unconscionable – but our staff have made it work. They’ve worked creatively to engage every individual in our homes and ensure the environment is positive and upbeat. Staff have sacrificed to make sure programing and treatment continued as safely as possible. Clinicians in our behavioral health clinics shifted quickly to telehealth to make sure the individuals we serve continued receiving services during these troubling times. Day programing opened this summer, but with limited capacity – so staff worked to develop both on-site and virtual programing. I am so proud of our Bridgewell team for stepping up to meet the challenge, providing the excellent services we are known for even through such unique circumstances.
I cannot say with certainty when life will get back to “normal.” We are still in the thick of the pandemic, but there is encouragement on the horizon. Coronavirus infection rates are declining and the vaccine is slowly becoming available to the public. By the end of March, 98% of individuals in our programs who were eligible to get the vaccine will be fully vaccinated – and 51% of eligible staff will be fully vaccinated. We are seeing society slowly opening up more and certain restrictions being reduced or lifted.
I have thought a lot about staff over this past year and how remarkable all of you are. I have tried to put into words how much I appreciate all of you and the work you have done. The positive, upbeat attitude you have shown despite the challenges has been truly inspiring. I was listening to one of my favorite songs* the other day and the opening lyrics reminded me of how this past year has felt – and the Bridgewell team’s response through it all.
When you can’t find the light,
That got you through the cloudy days,
When the stars ain’t shinin’ bright,
You feel like you’ve lost your way,
When those candle lights of home,
Burn so very far away,
Well you got to let your soul shine.
This past year, Bridgewell let its soul shine – and everyone we serve is better for it. Thank you all for doing your part.
With deep appreciation and gratitude,
*The Allman Brothers Band, Soulshine