Important Corona Virus Update
The Arc Mercer team is working day and night to ensure that our staff feel safe and supported throughout this crisis, both while at work and at home with their families.
We have initiated “table top” planning, which has allowed us to find innovative solutions for many complex challenges brought about by this pandemic.
The redistribution of staff and redirection of standing Arc Mercer infrastructure have been vital in reinforcing our ability to navigate this crisis.
The Arc Mercer is thankful to have such a committed, action-oriented team who has been fully engaged each and every day.
Realigning Existing Arc Mercer Infrastructure
In the midst of the current pandemic, The Arc Mercer team has realigned existing programs in order to better serve our community and keep them safe. The largest realignment has been the utilization of resources provided to us by our Vocational Training Programs.
Our Occupational Training Center (OTC), which housed many of our job training initiatives, is currently being re-purposed as a fulfillment center for personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and paper products such as toilet paper and paper towels. We quickly got to work stockpiling these necessities to ensure that our consumers and staff would be well provided for.
Our Food Service Training Program, located at our Touch of Taste Café, has also been a fantastic help. The team in the kitchen has been preparing meals for all of our group homes as well as staff who do not have the time to cook for their families or do not want to risk going out to the overcrowded stores. This also supports staff who are working in our group homes, as they can spend more time engaged with consumers rather than preparing meals themselves.
Because our Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are needed inside of our group homes now more than ever, this system of ordering has allowed them to remain in their group homes for the majority of their shifts. In fact, we have realigned our transportation team to go out and deliver the orders placed through our OTC and Touch of Taste Café directly to group homes.
While we are 100% committed to the community we serve, it is equally important for us to foster a feeling of support within our workforce.
Without the incredible work of our Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), our goals would be difficult to achieve. We want our DSPs to know how appreciated they are on a regular basis—especially during this incredibly difficult time. We are providing child care for our employees affected by school closures. This includes recreation time in the ArcADE, spaces for eLearning, 24/7 supervision by members of administration and free lunches served in the Café.
As a reward for those who are working every day to help out during this crisis and do not fit the criteria for Governor Murphy’s $3/hour wage increase, we are giving “thank you” bonuses for each pay period team members do not call out.
We recognize that those choosing to work on the front lines are putting themselves at risk voluntarily. We are forever grateful for the dedication of those who stood strong in the midst of this pandemic.
It is our goal that every member of The Arc Mercer family feels that they are supported during this time. We are only as strong as each individual member and I have found that strength and support go hand in hand.
The health and safety of our staff and consumers has always been our top priority. Because of this, we as an agency proactively tested every single one of our consumers and almost all of our staff for COVID-19. In fact, we were one of the first DDD provider agencies in New Jersey to test all of our consumers and be able to proactively implement plans of action in order to stop the spread and keep everyone we serve and everyone on our team safe.
We have begun offering specialized shifts for the safety of both staff and consumers through significantly reducing the possibility of spreading infection by separating those who tested positive (with or without symptoms) from those who tested negative. These are Shelter In Place (SIP) and Quarantine In Place (QIP) shifts where staff can volunteer to work 14 consecutive days—16 hours on and 8 hours off—inside our group homes and receive up to 80 hours of overtime plus a bonus of up to $1,000. This is not only a fantastic safety measure, but also a significant financial opportunity for staff which we implemented even before the $3 wage increase provided by the state. Another proactive measure that my team has taken has been exploring the use of antibody testing. We found a supplier from Delaware who was willing to provide us with some of the first antibody tests approved for use by the CDC in the entire country.
Thanks to two volunteer nurses and our Health Care Center, we have been able to learn a lot and are interested to see where it takes us. We hope that through our actions and measures, other agencies are also inspired to create innovative strategies. It is our mission to ensure the security of the community we serve, and we are grateful for the opportunity to lead the way.
The Arc Mercer team is nothing short of amazing—we are fortunate to have such committed and hardworking staff. If this virus has shown us anything, it is that we can do great things when we work as a team. The dedication of the people we have on the front lines makes all of this possible.