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LETTER: More ‘unsung heroes’: Group home staff

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Another group of unsung heroes in our communities is the staff who work in residential treatment facilities across our state. I am the parent of an adult son who receives 24/7 care while residing in a Wake County community-based group home.

Before COVID-19 restrictions, my son’s weekly routine included attending both a psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR) program several days each week and a basic skills class at the local community college on other days. Additionally, my husband took him out for supper one night per week, and our son had periodic home visits with us over weekends and holidays. Ongoing routines give my son the structure and predictability he needs to more easily navigate through life.

Then the virus-management orders came, implementing necessary prohibitions, disrupting all of our lives, but with consequences felt even more so by my son. First, his school cancelled classes followed by the closing of his PSR program. Mere hours later we learned that we would not be able to visit him or bring him home for a visit; fully understandable to us, but not to our son who asks multiple times during daily phone calls when he will see us again. Our son wants a definitive answer, desiring certainty that no one can give him right now. It is not just his dad and me that he asks. He frequently requests information from his group home staff members as well.

The staff does its best to inform him of what they know, walking that fine line between giving him possible social distancing ending-time scenarios and not stating promises, just as his dad and I do. As COVID-19 guidelines and regulations have evolved and increased over the past few weeks, the staff members have consistently sorted through their care options, sought advice from Alliance Health (the behavioral health managed care organization for Wake and three other counties), and made adjustments to ensure that my son’s care continues to follow his medical orders, along with all virus regulations, while creating new activities and routines ‘in house,’ tremendously impacting his peace of mind in a positive way.

So, kudos to all North Carolina group home workers from one of many moms who puts her trust in you as you care for her child. And extra accolades to Etta’s Residential Services & Supports, Inc. staff in Raleigh for your excellent care to my son.

Yvonne Burdick