Updated July 21, 2020
As a reminder, Evolve is considered an essential health care facility that will remain open 24/7 during the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). Our Residential Treatment Centers (RTC), Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) all provide lifesaving mental health treatment and support for struggling teens.
As urban California moves toward Stage 2 of its re-opening plan, we at Evolve have updated our protocols to continue prioritizing the safety of our clients and staff. As leaders in the field of adolescent mental health and substance abuse treatment, we will continue to work with the community to help teens in crisis. The following is a brief summary of the exceptional measures we are taking to ensure the health and safety of our clients, staff, and the community-at-large throughout this pandemic:
- Sanitizing each facility to strict hygiene standards
- Requiring new RTC clients to test negative for COVID-19
- Conducting frequent COVID screenings for all clients and staff
- Limiting access to the facilities to maintain strict sanitation
- Requiring social distancing at all times
- Requiring staff members in the facility to wear facemasks at all times
- Shifting family therapy, family visits and certain experiential therapies to an online platform
- Shifting all PHP/IOP programming to an online platform
We are vigilantly following and adopting all safety and infection-control guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). In order to ensure we are doing our absolute best to minimize risk of exposure to our clients, their families, and the general community, many of the changes we have implemented go above and beyond these agencies’ regulations.
Hygienic RTC Environment
The Evolve maintenance crew will provide disinfectant fogging to every RTC facility biweekly using our newly purchased misting/fogging equipment. The Mist-It Disinfectant System easily decontaminates large areas quickly and thoroughly via the application of tiny spray droplets (approximately 80 microns in size) that can extend to even hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. RTC vans, which are used to transport clients to and from each respective facility, will also be disinfected via this method biweekly.
RTC homes are professionally cleaned on a daily basis as well. Staff sanitize all high-traffic surfaces areas every four hours with EPA-recommended antibacterial disinfectants approved for use against emerging viral pathogens. To maintain this high level of sanitation, we continue to limit access to the program to essential staff only.
All facility staff members wear facemasks for the entire duration of their shifts. When checking vitals (or any other time that social distancing cannot be maintained due to necessity), staff wear gloves and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
We heavily emphasize the importance of handwashing in our RTCs, as frequent handwashing is the most effective step individuals can take to reduce the risk and spread of infection. Staff wash their hands immediately upon entering the RTC. Clients and staff are required to wash their hands before/after mealtimes and after using the restroom. We have placed posters around the home and in every restroom to remind employees and clients about correct handwashing techniques and other hygiene protocols.
Updated Admissions Protocols
Prior to admission into our RTCs, all new clients will be required to test negative for COVID-19.
Out of an abundance of caution, we are currently limiting new clients to those who live within driving distance of the facility or those who can take a direct flight to the facility. (However, at this time we will not be admitting clients who live in Eastern time zones.)
When travelling by plane, clients will be required to use one of the approved airlines from this list:
- Jet Blue
These approved airlines all utilize HEPA air filters and disinfectant machines, have implemented strict social distancing protocols, and have required passengers to wear masks throughout the duration of the flight.
Additionally, we encourage families to book the first flight of the day to avoid crowds.
Furthermore, to avoid the need to wait in crowded baggage claim areas, clients are asked to only bring carry-on luggage. Parents may ship additional belongings to the facility either before or after the client’s arrival.
From the airport, transportation to the RTC facility may be facilitated by an Evolve staff member to reduce risk of coronavirus exposure in taxis and Ubers. Alternatively, families may rent a car through Hertz, Evolve’s approved rental car provider of choice, to bring their client to our facility. In Hertz’s new Gold Standard Clean program, each car undergoes a rigorous, multi-step disinfection and sealing process before being rented out to customers.
The day of admission, parents/guardians are asked to escort their teen until the entry of the home, where a staff member will be waiting to greet them. RTC staff will wash and disinfect the client’s clothing and belongings immediately.
In line with the social distancing guidelines set by the CDC, residential staff and clients stay six feet apart from one another at all times.
Yoga, meditation, physical fitness, psychodrama, and dance will continue as usual, with social-distancing guidelines maintained. All group therapy sessions are now conducted in the largest room in the home, and seating is arranged so that social distancing between clients and staff can be maintained.
Furthermore, we have modified most routine outings for our clients. We are temporarily suspending surf therapy and social outings and will resume them when it is safe to do so. Other experiential therapies (art therapy, music therapy, etc.) have shifted to virtual platforms for the time being.
We have resumed equine-assisted therapy, though clients are required to wear facemasks throughout each session. We have also resumed mindful hiking. These community hikes will be scheduled on weekdays to avoid the large crowds that gather on weekends.
To minimize the risk of introducing COVID-19 into our residential treatment centers, we are limiting access to essential staff only and have reduced the foot traffic in and out of the facilities.
Consistent with public health experts’ recommendations for social distancing, we have shifted our family therapy and psychiatry components to virtual telehealth. Our board-certified adolescent psychiatrist, as well as our full-time therapists, will employ HIPAA-compliant video-conferencing tools to continue their weekly psychiatry and family therapy sessions with clients and parents. Video conferencing will also replace in-person family visits. We have initiated the use of grocery delivery services to minimize our chefs’ visits to local supermarkets.
Screening and Testing for COVID-19
Depending on availability of testing supplies, we will be testing all our employees for COVID-19 on a frequent, rotating basis. We will also be testing employees individually when exposure is suspected.
In the meantime, we continue medically screening our employees daily, upon entry to the workplace. Employees will not be allowed to work if COVID-19 symptoms are discovered during their health screenings. Additionally, all employees who travel during this outbreak (even domestically) are subject to a 14-day quarantine before returning to work.
We continue to medically screen our clients daily. Nursing staff check clients’ vital signs multiple times a day and are vigilant for coronavirus symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, and shortness of breath). When a client’s symptoms indicate the need for testing, we will arrange for COVID-19 testing in accordance with medical advice. If a client tests positive, we are ready to implement quarantine protocols set by the CDC. All homes will maintain a private-room option in case isolation or bedrest becomes necessary.
Virtual Intensive Outpatient/Partial Hospitalization Programs
Our Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) and Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) are currently operating virtually, with all care provided remotely. All aspects of therapy (individual, group and family therapy; psychiatry; multifamily groups) have moved to online platforms.
We are beginning to admit community-based clients to our virtual programs, with the goal of re-opening our outpatient locations and shifting to in-person programming on July 1. Just as in our RTCs, all new clients will be required to test negative for COVID-19 prior to admission.
As we navigate this stressful time, we strive to strike the perfect balance between effectively treating our clients’ mental health needs while simultaneously addressing concerns about their physical health and safety, our employees’ health and safety, and the health and safety of our communities and our society-at-large. Evolve is continually monitoring this ever-changing situation and will continue to adopt governmental and public health policies and guidelines.
Please contact us at 1-800-665-4769 if we can be of any service to you or your family during this difficult time.
If you or a parent you know is struggling, Evolve offers free virtual support groups for parents of teens seeking practical guidance and emotional support. Learn more about our support group here.