COVID-19 and Oregon’s Brokerage Community

Posted by on Apr 21, 2020

Oregonians are all working incredibly hard to keep up with the changing rules and realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. For our social service entities, this has meant delaying long-term projects and other critical work in order to pick up the work of sharing goods, resources, and information with their communities. Health and safety in the time of COVID-19 is an ever-changing effort. It requires an immense amount of extra work, communication, and personal connection with people, even as in-person contact is limited.

To hear a problem and figure out how to address it is at the core of what we do. We solve it through listening, identifying resources, and tapping anyone and everything that might help. Personal Agents are using these finely-honed skills in the context of the pandemic in ways that can teach the world. “Case management” is a superpower in the time of COVID-19.

We also work within a community where isolation and scarcity are a common experience; we are now witnessing the adaptability and resilience many have developed out of necessity. These are survival skills that should be acknowledged as leadership, and which will help us to thrive in the new world, changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Case management” is a superpower in the time of COVID-19.

Brokerages were founded on the idea that giving people the right to choose how they live, and what risks they will take, is the right approach. We have always held this to be true; we hold this value as we walk through the COVID-19 crisis, and we will hold this value in the future. You need only look to heartbreaking stories in congregate living homes and institutions in other states to know that health and safety is no more assured in licensed and certified living settings than it is in our own homes. The only thing that really keeps any of us safe is other people caring about us.

Community-based case management has us working with the resources available and the conditions on the ground. We’re speaking directly to people with IDD, making the case for why their behavior must change in the face of new threats. One of the first actions we took was to identify the people who are uniquely vulnerable to the COVID-19 threat—for example, people with elderly primary caregivers, and individuals who have underlying health conditions that could result in hospitalization. We have created tight communication protocols, to care for people who might otherwise be lost in the greater community upheaval.

Brokerage staff across the state have been working tirelessly to connect directly with people and families, making sure that their personal, social, and emotional needs are met.

We are here for one another, as we navigate the new challenges of daily life.

People use Brokerage services to:

Ensure that their medical supports are met. One person served by a Brokerage had a medical crisis involving their kidney function, which coincided with the rise of COVID-19. The work involved in keeping them safe and cared for has intensified, with frequent check-ins, monitoring their health, coordinating with their support team, and assuring that their changing needs are recognized and met. Complex medical needs still must be addressed, even in this time of public health crisis.

Get the support they need in their daily activities. Brokerages have helped providers and people in services translate their direct support work to indirect or virtual services. Personal Agents problem-solve, helping people and their providers figure out how to meet social and daily living time with indirect supports, such as teaching a person how to use video conferencing to connect with friends, and arranging grocery delivery and pick-up to keep them safe at home. One Portland-area Brokerage has a Housing Liaison who provides weekly updates on resources for people with IDD experiencing houselessness.

Help them adapt to changing circumstances and needs. In one case, a person was presumed COVID-19 positive. His Brokerage Personal Agent and direct care providers worked to get him on Zoom, and were able to ensure a remote audio/visual check in 3-4 times each day that he was quarantined, including a virtual walk through of his home to assure his living space was still clean and safe. It took almost two weeks, but his test eventually came back negative. He came out on the other side of his experience feeling well supported, and everyone was grateful for the positive outcome.

Maintain their benefits and Medicaid services. Brokerage Personal Agents have driven to a people’s homes for essential paperwork review, conducting the work from driveways and nearby locations, with people in remote visual contact. They have helped people understand and enter information to receive the federal Economic Impact Payments. Brokerage personnel have supported employed people with IDD to report income changes, and apply for unemployment benefits

Creative solutions are sometimes required, such as

  • A Brokerage in southern Oregon that quickly put together ‘pantries’ early in the pandemic. Each office bought a quantity of shelf-stable food items, essential supplies (yes, toilet paper), sanitizers, and written pamphlets reminding folks how stay well and practice healthy hygiene habits. The Brokerage put those together into care packages for the most vulnerable and independent in their services.  As urgent needs arise among their community of adults with IDD, Brokerage staff make arrangements to drop the supplies off at their home.
  • A Portland metro area Brokerage using their organization funds to reimburse the cost of sorely needed cleaning supplies for people with IDD to use to keep their spaces safe and clean.
  • Helping people source essential items, as in an example out of Scappoose, where stores were consistently out of food and paper supplies, due to an in-flux of shoppers from out of town. This Personal Agent found that the further north they went, the more likely that stores were stocked with these supplies. She connected people with IDD in need to sources in nearby towns with available supplies.
  • Taking online classes that match with long term career goals, such as one person who is taking a course in fashion design, a life-long dream. They are also working with their provider to make masks for local healthcare workers (thank you!).

We are here for you–even if we can’t physically be together right now. Your Brokerage Personal Agent is working hard to work those super powers of case management, and get you what you need. And as things change again, and we venture back into the world, we will figure that out together, too.