A Message from Alan Benson

A Message from Alan Benson

March 12

Well, we are about to hit the one-year mark of our journey with COVID-19. It is difficult to wrap my head around the fact that this pandemic is a year old. Even more difficult is how much everyone has endured, experienced, and sacrificed in the past year. I also vividly recall all the feelings of anxiety, stress and general uneasiness we faced at the inevitable arrival of this contagion and what the result will be on our families, friends and consumers. Again, it is hard to believe that was a year ago. So much has transpired since those initial unsettling days. I would like to say that all those feelings have gone away but that would be disingenuous.  For many though, those feelings are still here. Some just as intense and some may even feel worse. The mental health component of this pandemic will take a toll for years. A year of living in a crisis is challenging for all.    

With all that has transpired in this past year I feel very fortunate that we have fared as well as we have here at Lakeshore. Although many of our staff and consumers were not able to avoid this virus, we have not suffered the serious and tragic losses sustained by many other providers in our state. For that, we have been very fortunate indeed. I believe our success is from the commitment and dedication of our employees in support of those we serve. By following mitigation strategies and adherence to our safety policies and procedures, we have been successful in our response to the contagion. This history coupled with the initiation of vaccines for our staff and consumers, and our ability to ease some restrictions and precautions is in underway.  

Now we can assess the current situation and determine what that means for our operations, our staff, and those we serve. First let me say our decisions will continue to be based on the factual data we have on hand. Second, like everything throughout the past year, it will likely be a fluid and ever-changing situation based on all relevant information. Third, our decisions will be situationally based rather than broad brushed. Unfortunately, this is a micromanagement situation. Anything less would not maximize service and minimize risk which is our optimum goal. We will continue to make every effort to achieve optimal safety for all while relaxing restrictions conservatively and reasonably. We will continue to use the PA Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and our regulatory entities for our direction and decisions. We ask for your patience and understanding as we navigate this complex and convoluted environment. Our goal is to keep things as simple and safe as possible.    

While we all look to spring for some warmth, sunshine, and a return to the outdoors, it appears as March progresses, we will be able to continue the transition of our already initiated return to work, expansion of services, and initiation of family visitation plans. First, I would like to update you on many of the transitions that have taken place in recent weeks! Lakeshore was one of the first in the state to provide vaccines to all employees and consumers in our residential programs who desired to have one. We need to continue this effort of vaccinations to support an expeditious return to a somewhat normal environment. If you previously declined a vaccine and would now desire one, please contact HR and they will assist with your vaccination through Genoa’s pharmacy as soon as possible. In addition to a successful vaccination campaign, we’ve revised our residential visitation and return to work restrictions to allow for both, within the newly revised guidelines. We have also allowed for a return to the community on a limited and selective basis for our Residential programs. Our Mental Health programs have initiated a return to in person visits which will improve the care and support of those we support in the community. We are also working to return to community based IDD programs as soon as the situation warrants, but this unfortunately will likely be the last of our programs to resume even on a limited basis.    

As we initiate these relaxed restrictions, we can only maintain safety with the close adherence to established thorough policy and procedures, and the appropriate use of PPE. Lakeshore has spared no expense in the purchase of PPE supplies. We have procured the highest quality of masks and secured the mandated fit testing devices, supplies, and training to ensure the N95 masks work effectively. Lakeshore will continue our best efforts to keep all staff and consumers safe, and to provide the best mitigation equipment and practices possible.  

Last, as we approach the one-year anniversary of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I would like to express my sincere heartfelt appreciation to each Lakeshore employee. You have each faced hardship both personally and professionally. The impact of this vocation is one that puts all of you at risk at some level. Each of you have faced this risk head on and came to work to fulfill your obligations to those we support and serve. When reflecting on what has transpired this year, I am truly thankful for the dedication, commitment, and sacrifice you each made in support of our mission. I know many families in our ID programs have expressed their deep gratitude for the care and support each of you have provided to their loved ones. No matter what your position in our agency, you should take comfort from your efforts. As I have mentioned frequently, each of us has a job to do in support of our mission, and although there are many and various positions, they are all important and this pandemic has only emphasized and demonstrated that! So, as we look to soon regain some of our lives back, I want you to know that you are all responsible for our past and continued success and I’m thankful to work with you all!!!


 

March 9

Lakeshore’s workforce is a diverse and dynamic group of people. We’re fortunate to have each of them. They each provide much needed service and support to those in need. This diversity has contributed much to our success. However, no matter how diverse, one demographic dominates that diversity, our workforce is made up predominantly of women. Today, Lakeshore is proud to recognize International Women’s Day!

Many of us may have never heard of International Women's Day, however it has been around since 1911 and is recognized the world over as a day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.….so it is a bit more than just another special day of interest on the calendar!

Lakeshore embraces and reflects the values and virtues that this special day recognizes. Our agency is fortunate that almost all leadership and management positions are filled by women. They each demonstrate the traits, character, and competencies that are necessary to manage and lead an organization such as Lakeshore.

As we recognize the contributions of women in the world today, I urge each of you to make an effort to join me in expressing our appreciation for what they each bring to our agency and the lives of those we support. Thank you for making Lakeshore excellent at what we do, as well as a great place to work!!


 

November 25

It is November 25th and with Thanksgiving just a day away, I’m reflecting differently on this year than in years past. It was over eight months ago that we initiated emergency operations to combat COVID-19, which brought so much fear and anxiety into our lives. Much has transpired since those early days in March when time seemed to stand still; it felt a lot like the movie Groundhog Day! The same things were being done every day, until early May when things seemed to calm down. We acclimated and became comfortable with our new normal (how I hate that phrase). A beautiful spring and summer enabled people to head back outdoors. The supply shortages in stores we saw in spring began to ease and by June we were able to return to dining in restaurants and bars.

However, that welcomed sense of “normalcy” and relative comfort was short-lived. Crisis fatigue has gripped many. Complacency, apathy, and our desire to return to our pre-COVID world have allowed many of us to drop our guard and become victims of, and susceptible to, this virus. Sadly, as predicted, the cases of COVID-19 have skyrocketed.

Fortunately, within the past eight months the government, in conjunction with private organizations and the entire medical community, has been productive. They have developed many new therapeutics that are yielding positive results. A vaccine was just submitted last week for emergency approval. Although it will likely be a couple months before the vaccine is widely distributed, it appears that effective mitigation is on the horizon. In the meantime, here at Lakeshore, much still needs to be done to maintain safety for our consumers, coworkers, and families.

We know what to do and it’s not hard; wear a mask when in the presence of others outside your home. Wash and/or sanitize your hands frequently, don’t travel except when necessary, and don’t socialize with others outside your immediate household unless necessary. If we truly want to get back to a sense of normalcy, then we must adhere to these strategies that will mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on those things for which we give thanks. Although we’ve endured much this year and will endure more, we have so much for which to be very thankful!! I am grateful for our entire Lakeshore community of employees, consumers, and families. Thank you for everything you do to support our consumers every day.

June 16

Today marks the third month of the declared COVID-19 crisis here in Pennsylvania. It has been a long three months for all of us. Much has happened in those 90 days. Here at Lakeshore we have completely changed almost every aspect of how we operate as an organization.

However, that change didn’t come easily and could not have happened without the hard work performed and dedication of every one of Lakeshore’s employees. Those we serve and their families are very appreciative of the efforts taken to keep their loved ones safe and supported, for both our Intellectual Disabilities services and our Mental Health programs and services.

Staff efforts have been extraordinary, and, in many cases, staff have made extreme sacrifices both personally and professionally l during this crisis. I am so grateful for our staff’s flexibility, cooperation and support as we mitigated this pandemic. However, this crisis is far from over and we have a long way to go. The risks of infection are evident with each days’ COVID-19 case report. As we reopen and relax restrictions each of us must stay the course. Over 15% of the population we serve here at Lakeshore is at extremely high risk of Covid-19. This is way we must remain vigilant.

Lakeshore recognizes that the impacts of this crisis with altered schedules and work environments is difficult to maintain. However, our efforts have proven to be effective. The individuals we serve are still well. Isolation from large groups and the community at large is responsible for this. I hope you are each proud and thankful for your coworkers that this virus has been held at bay thus far. But there are no guarantees this will be the case tomorrow, next week or in the fall. To achieve this, we all must stay the course.

The next few months are going to be difficult as the world opens and we maintain our strict standards. We have asked our staff to be extremely cautious in their personal lives and stay the course as well; practice the mitigation strategies and avoid close interaction with anyone who doesn’t live within your own home and ask those who do live with you to do the same. We see the best solution is to keep Covid-19 out. Please be safe and be well. Thank you for your continued support of Lakeshore. 

May 19

The last two months have been nothing but surreal. So far, Lakeshore has successfully negotiated the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. We've been blessed in the health of our consumers and staff to date. This has been the result of a huge concerted effort by all our program and administrative staff as well as many people and organizations in the community. I cannot thank the organizations and the community enough who rallied to help LCS prepare for and deal with the implications of COVID-19. From the individuals and groups who sewed and donated masks, to the volunteers and staff who worked on finding and fulfilling PPE needs, to the vendors who facilitated logistical support efforts, and the great distilleries who provided hand sanitizers. The list is almost endless, and my appreciation is heartfelt and sincere. All of you have brought us to where we are today. Not only did these efforts protect our agency, it has ensured we are very prepared if COVID-19 were to ever arrive at our doors. We have the required resources, training, plans and support systems in place to confront it and do so in a safe, effective and approved manner. Thank you!!

As our region navigates the Yellow Phase to reopening, we want you to know Lakeshore will remain diligent in our protocols to protect our consumers and our staff. LCS serves a population that is up to fifteen times more likely to succumb to COVID-19. It is because of this high mortality rate that LCS will be moving very cautiously to ease restrictions within our programs and in our operations. With that in mind, Lakeshore will slowly ease restrictions as the situation warrants. When the risk to our consumers reaches a point that is significantly lower than it is currently, our mitigation efforts will begin to ease further. At that point we'll begin looking to reinitiate community-based services and participating in typical small community group activities.

At Lakeshore Community Services our primary focus has been and will remain, the safety and wellbeing of our staff and consumers. Again, my deepest gratitude to everyone who has helped us navigate this crisis and maintain the high level of quality care for which Lakeshore is known. 

April 27

The health, safety and well-being of the consumers we serve is at the very core of our mission at Lakeshore Community Services. We provide services for over 750 adults with intellectual disabilities and persistent mental illness. The COVID crisis had an immediate impact on our agency. We had to react quickly, putting in place the emergency policies and procedures to ensure that everyone at Lakeshore was safe. From PPE to food and supplies as well as additional support for staff, our agency has been working around the clock to ensure that the individuals we serve are receiving consistent, quality care. Thanks to a grant award from the Erie Community Foundation we were able to offset the cost of unforeseen supplies like masks, gowns, face shields and sanitation supplies. These funds helped to cover the costs associated with bulk procurement of food and other supplies for our community homes. The funds are also helping with very important supplies like arts and crafts and educational tools so that staff can provide activities to keep consumers occupied and calm. These are unprecedented times and the financial challenge we faced as an agency was eased by the very generous support of the Erie Community Foundation.

March 30

A crisis like COVID-19 can bring out the best in people or the worst. This past week here at Lakeshore we have seen some of the very best of our staff and the community! So many businesses, suppliers and other community organizations have helped LCS in a host of ways from helping us secure much needed supplies to staffing resources. We are grateful to each and every one of you. A special note of thanks to those making masks for our use and to Luminary Distillery. I would also like to shine the light on LCS staff who have been spreading positive thoughts by recognizing their co-workers with words of encouragement on the LCS internal website.

Has someone gone above and beyond at Lakeshore and you would like to recognize them? Be sure to “shout” it out on LEW. All these efforts are keeping spirits high and ensuring that the care we deliver is consistent and the highest quality.

Stay well everyone and remember - stay home except for health care, essential work and to check on family or obtain groceries.

March 23

As COVID-19 continues to cause great suffering around the world, across the nation and here in PA, at Lakeshore we are committed to keeping our consumer's activities in the home as normal as possible. We are committed to ensuring that our consumers days are healthy, active and fun. A very special thank you to all of our Lakeshore employees from the front desk to our managers, DSP’s, HR, accounting, maintenance, administrative and IT staff for keeping things going so smoothly during this crisis. I am humbled by the hard-work, creativity and positive outlook from all of our staff here at Lakeshore during this difficult time.

March 17

A Sincere Thank You from Alan Benson, CEO

While many can work from home during this crisis – we want to remember and thank our DSP’s & managers at Lakeshore who are on the frontlines delivering consistent quality care to our consumers.

March 16

COVID-19 Response
Lakeshore Community Services

Like for many of you, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is at the forefront of Lakeshore’s mind. We are taking significant steps to ensure the health, safety and welfare of those we serve, our employees, and the community at large. This is always our first priority. As a result, Lakeshore has imposed some restrictions on access to our offices and facilities. This includes suspending in person meetings, trainings and visitations. Operations are currently being altered to ensure that sufficient resources are in place to provide adequate services to our consumers and support to staff and families. Lakeshore appreciates everyone’s understanding, flexibility and support as we work to navigate this national health emergency.