Essential Information about HeartShare's Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

March 25, 2020

Update: HeartShare Responds to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Dear HeartShare Family,

I hope that you and your loved ones are safe in these uncertain times. I’m reaching out to provide an update on how HeartShare is responding to the challenges posed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Here is what we’re doing:

  • HeartShare Preschools, UPK and School-Age Programs: All were closed on March 16, in accordance with New York City and New York State directives. We plan to reopen on Monday, April 20, unless government entities decide to extend the closure. In the meantime, our preschool and school-age staff has become very creative with remote learning. In addition to reaching out to the children and their parents directly, we have created a HeartShare Education channel on YouTube (photos from some of the videos are pictured above):
  • Day Services: Our leadership teams are working hard to ensure that HeartShare programs continue to provide services to the individuals we support in the best manner possible. All day habilitation and prevocational programs were closed for the foreseeable future on March 17 by directive of the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). Many program staff has been redeployed to work in HeartShare residences. Regardless, we will be reaching out to day services individuals and families daily through phone, Skype and whatever means necessary to stay connected and provide support.
  • Residential Programs: Per OPWDD mandate, no visitors are permitted at HeartShare residential programs. Individuals who go home to visit their families must remain home until the crisis is over and we are given permission to have them come back. Our residential teams are providing other options like FaceTime, Skype and phone calls for residents to stay in touch with their family members and friends.
  • COVID-19 Monitoring: HeartShare has adopted stringent infection control procedures in all our residences, and we have a good supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the present time due to strong outreach efforts last week. Program staff are monitoring residents daily for COVID-19 symptoms and will contact the nurse and primary care physician immediately as needed. As of March 23, all houses have access to StationMD telehealth services that allow a physician to evaluate the person remotely with special equipment. However, we can only use this service for families who have given their consent for this service. We are keeping in close contact with families on a regular basis and alerting them to any health care issues for their family members
  • Article 16 Long-Term Therapies: HeartShare has moved to telephone for counseling services, and we have maintained our regular schedule since March 23. We are exploring other options like Zoom and Microsoft Teams as well. We are looking to expand our A.16 telehealth services for evaluations and speech, so please keep in touch with Angela Thomas and her team at: 718-797-2020, ext. 8015.
  • Community Habilitation: Services are continuing primarily by telephone but with in-person supports in critical situations.
  • Respite Recreation: All programs have been suspended until further notice, but we are exploring alternative options.
  • SPA Respite: SPA Respite has been suspended until further notice.

I want to take this opportunity to extend a huge thanks to everyone who is doing their best to navigate uncharted waters, especially our frontline workers. At a time when venturing outdoors and going to work every day represents an extreme act of courage, you consistently go above and beyond and provide an unparalleled level of caring, compassion and commitment. You are HeartShare’s first responders.

Thanks also to all those working hard behind the scenes to keep HeartShare functioning as close to normal as possible at our MetroTech headquarters, where most employees are working remotely. Operations are going as smoothly as can be expected given the conditions and that is a remarkable achievement. To everyone working from home, I commend you for pushing through the challenges and finding new ways to accomplish your day-to-day activities.

Many of these unforeseen challenges equate to unforeseen expenses, of course. At a time when we are implementing extraordinary measures to keep our staff and the individuals in our care safe, we are faced with the uncertainty of government support. If you’re wondering what you can do to ensure that HeartShare continues to do what it does best, you can show your support by donating today and by sharing this with your family and friends.

With your commitment, we will persevere because that’s what HeartShare always does—that’s the HeartShare way.

Please stay safe.

William R. Guarinello
President and Chief Executive Officer




March 19, 2020

The Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) has issued the following:

Health Advisory: COVID-19 Guidance for Operators of Individualized Residential Alternatives (IRAs), Community Residences (CRs) and Private Schools Regarding Visitation

COVID-19 has been detected in multiple communities around New York State. Visitors may introduce COVID-19 infection into the facility. The New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) is issuing the following guidance regarding visitors to IRAs, CRs and Private Schools and other precautions and procedures such facilities must take to protect and maintain the health and safety of their residents and staff during the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

To prevent the introduction of COVID-19 into IRAs, CRs and Private Schools:

Effective immediately, suspend all visitation except when medically or clinically necessary (i.e., visitor is essential to the care of the resident). In addition:

  • Any visitors meeting these exceptions must be screened for symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, or fever) or potential exposure to someone with COVID-19 and the duration and number of visits should be minimized.
  • IRAs, CRs and Private Schools should attempt to provide other forms of communication to meet the needs of their residents.
  • IRAs, CRs and Private Schools must post signage notifying the public of the suspension of visitation in all facility entrances and in parking lots. In addition, these policies should be posted to the facility’s website and social media pages. Thank you for your efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Read the full Advisory here.

March 17, 2020

Dear HeartShare Families, Friends and Supporters,

I am writing to keep you informed about HeartShare’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In the interest of the vulnerable populations we serve, I want to assure you that we are closely monitoring and implementing the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New York State Department of Health and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in addition to the Office of Persons With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), New York State Education Department and the New York Department of Education (DOE).

Here are the measures we’re taking:

  • HeartShare Preschools, UPK and School-Age Programs: All are closed as of Monday, March 16, in accordance with New York City and New York State directives. We plan to reopen on Monday, April 20, unless government entities decide to extend the closure.
  • Day Services: All HeartShare day habilitation and prevocational programs closed as of Tuesday, March 17, by directive of the OPWDD. For individuals living in HeartShare residences who attended our day programs, day services will be provided onsite in their residences. For individuals living in the community with their families, we are currently formulating plans to keep in touch with them and support ongoing needs.
  • Residential Programs: We are following all infection-control guidelines and increasing cleaning frequencies. We are also ensuring our residences have ample food, household supplies and medical supplies. Day program staff are being redeployed to work in our residential programs, especially during the daytime hours when individuals would have attended their day habilitation program. HeartShare, along with many of our colleague agencies, have made the difficult but necessary decision to prohibit all visitors to our residences during this critical isolation period. This includes family members.
  • Respite Recreation: All programs are suspended until further notice.
  • SPA Respite: We are suspending SPA Respite until further notice.
  • Article 16 Long-Term Therapies: We are exploring telehealth options for certain services (counseling and speech) and will be informing our service recipients and their families if this possible.

Everyone’s health and safety are our principal concerns. We will be in touch with additional information as the situation develops. In the meantime, please take care.

William R. Guarinello
President and Chief Executive Officer