Navigating Uncharted Waters During Covid-19

September 17, 2020

During my eight-year tenure with Grafton, I have spent the last three as the Business Development Administrator. I consider myself the “connective tissue” between key stakeholders and Grafton. Nearly every day, I am traveling somewhere in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, or Pennsylvania, working to build relationships with local and state governments, fellow behavioral health providers, families and other “stakeholders.” This has given me the opportunity to see and hear how our peer organizations are operating and, more recently, how they are weathering the Covid-19 crisis. We share ideas, offer collegial support, and learn from each other. These last few months have taught me two important things: 1) We are all in uncharted waters; and 2) Grafton was fortunate to take the right steps at the right time.

As the pandemic was gaining a foothold in our region this March, there was no manual for how behavioral health providers should respond. How the virus spreads and how dangerous it might be was still up for debate among scientists, and organizations like ours had to make difficult decisions and in a rapid manner. Delaying action could endanger the health of clients and staff, while aggressive measures could be seen as an overreaction that would prevent families from seeing their loved ones. After careful and strategic deliberation, and with consideration of the medical fragility of many clients in our care, Grafton decided to roll out sweeping Covid-19 safety measures about two weeks ahead of most other organizations in the country.

Leadership moved swiftly to adopt an organization-wide employee mask policy, limited outside visitors to protect our residential clients, and formed a Covid-19 monitoring committee that continues to meet daily and provide updates to all Grafton employees. We kept track of staff who traveled out-of-state, upped our already stringent hygiene practices, and implemented the latest CDC recommendations across our facilities.

Our amazing team also sprang into action. Managers worked tirelessly to obtain hard-to-find personal protective equipment, while others sewed homemade masks for themselves and their coworkers. Teachers and therapists, who had previously only worked with children in person, skillfully made the jump to online learning and telehealth sessions so their clients could continue making progress from home. Many of our employees have taken on extra shifts, delayed vacations, or relocated to different sites to fill vacancies during the pandemic.

Like other healthcare facilities, we continue to face daunting challenges daily. But our hard work has paid off; we are one of the few organizations in the region with no reported Covid-19 cases among our clients.

Looking back, I am grateful that we made the decision to take action early. However, I know better than to be braggadocious about our successes. The pandemic is far from over, and even the best defenses cannot offer 100% protection against Covid-19.

Still, whenever I’m on the road exchanging stories with other providers, I can’t help but appreciate how Grafton’s leadership team has navigated us through this pandemic thus far, and how our employees continue to serve clients with patience, resilience, compassion, and – most importantly – comfort. During these strange times, I encourage everyone to remember these words from decorated WW2 veteran Oliver P. Smith: “We are not retreating, we are just advancing in a different direction.”