Highlights of how The Help Groups Mental Health and
Clinical Programs are Meeting the Challenge of Covid-19
Elena Brewer MBA, Help Group Vice President of Programs
Lucyna Iga Gaj LMFT, Help Group Senior Director of Intensive Family Programs
Olga Zysman M.A., M.F.T., Help Group Senior Regional Director, Outpatient Services
Each year, The Help Group’s Outpatient and Intensive Family Programs serve over 1000 children and families impacted by mental health issues, child abuse and trauma, and other social-emotional issues. Many of these at-risk families face tremendous challenges, including gang violence, substance abuse, domestic violence, poverty, unemployment and other stressors. Recognizing these complex factors, The Help Group’s team of over 100 clinical and paraprofessional staff offers a continuum of clinic and field based services to address the unique needs of each child and family.
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, The Help Group’s mental health clinics closed on March 13th per the guidelines set forth by state and local officials; to ensure the safety and well-being of our clients and families, in-person field visits were also suspended. Our clinical teams rallied together, swiftly adapting their clinical operations to telehealth platforms so children and families could continue receiving critical support during this increased time of need.
Clinicians, case managers, behavior specialists and parent partners worked collaboratively around the clock, sharing training, client engagement strategies and therapeutic interventions that would successfully translate in a remote clinical environment. From individual therapy, to family sessions, to adolescent groups that mirror milieu settings, remote versions of each clinical program were implemented just one week after the clinics closed.
In addition to remote individual therapy sessions, our amazingly talented and creative clinical staff began setting up weekly remote groups for children with social-emotional and behavioral difficulties. Activities such as yoga, dancing, trivia, charades, and scavenger hunts are used to engage clients in these groups and help them continue building social skills while having fun interacting with one another. These groups are proving to be quite complementary to clients’ individual services. In the coming weeks, our elementary and adolescent clients will also participate in The Help Group’s Got Talent- Zoom Edition, with remote auditions and performances. Clinicians continue to acknowledge clients’ birthdays via telehealth with virtual cards signed the team and incorporating families during sessions to celebrate. The bright smiles we see on the screen during birthday sessions are priceless!
They are also providing tremendous support via telehealth to parents, as many of them are experiencing increased fears surrounding employment, heightened anxiety and depression due to increased social isolation. Parents have been actively participating in Virtual
Parenting & Support Groups conducted in both English and Spanish by clinicians and Parent Partners. These groups provide clinical and peer to peer support for parents, many of whom are “essential workers” employed in medical facilities and have difficulty returning home safely to their children. Other parents who do not live in the same household as their children have had their child visitation time temporarily postponed due to mandated “stay at home” orders. Even though they are all experiencing difficulties in their lives, they find these remote sessions a welcome support system to laugh, cry and share their experiences.
During these unprecedented times, our Outpatient and Intensive Family Programs have demonstrated tremendous resiliency, creativity and commitment to the children and families we serve. They have done a remarkable job of providing intensive therapeutic interventions that are critically needed in our community. Our team continues to receive praise from families who would not otherwise be able to receive these mental health services provided by such skilled and dedicated clinicians.
“From the beginning it has been a completely different experience. From the very first call and intake, it has been very helpful and comforting to know that everyone is a part of the team, really cares and listens to what my daughter and I have to say. My daughter has been in and out of therapy since the age of three. With that comes a lot of people coming in and out of our lives and emotional hardships that we’ve had to address on our own, without any support. I’m truly blessed and happy to say that my daughter, now 16, has been connected with real providers who are actually providing her with the right services and who are really here for us. From giving us medication, support, counseling, space when needed, and communication when needed, this has lifted a weight off our shoulders. Given the current state of the nation, The Help Group has been a fundamental part in helping us get through this, along with supporting my daughter’s mental health needs, along with my own. I’m hopeful for her future. Thanks to the entire Help Group team. You all are awesome.”
While families and clinicians miss the in-person engagement afforded by face-to face interactions, we are immensely proud of our team’s efforts to create such wonderful therapeutic programs in remote environments so that at-risk children and families can continue to receive your much needed support.