DUI MAT: Report on Operations during COVID-19 Pandemic
Safety Consultant Services, Inc. (SCS) operates DUI programs at 5 locations in LA County and School Ten Inc. operates DUI programs at 6 locations in Orange County. All sites have grants to provide DUI MAT services. From June 1, 2019 – March 31, 2020, SCS conducted 2949 DAST-10 prescreens and School Ten conducted 3371 DAST-10 prescreens. SCS has 5 active DUI MAT clients and School Ten has 2 active DUI MAT clients.
Like all programs, we have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As soon as programs received the authority to continue operations as “essential services” and as soon as DHCS gave the authority for virtual client contact we made the decision to engage in Telehealth. We chose the Zoom platform and immediately established “host” accounts at 11 program sites plus the corporate office. Each program site is managed by a program director and he or she was given the responsibility of implementing Zoom groups and classes, telephonic and Zoom face-to-face interviews and anything necessary to maintain client contact and tracking within the parameters and restrictions set forth by the State of California and the public health departments of LA and Orange counties. The results have been amazing. Here are some examples:
- Few program directors had any Zoom experience. They all attended Zoom webinars presented by CADTP and they attended online teaching videos. They relied on staff with Zoom experience and they collaborated among each other as part of the learning process. They taught their staff to use Zoom. They have demonstrated extraordinary leadership, initiative, and ingenuity during this crisis.
- Despite observing all “social distancing” and hygiene protocols at program sites some staff and clients felt uncomfortable reporting to work or to the program. All were granted leaves of absence (LOA).
- Both SCS and School Ten have retained @75% of active clients. LA county required all groups and classes to be conducted virtually. Orange county still allows in-person gatherings of fewer than 10 people on site. Some clients didn’t have email accounts. Program Directors taught clients how to establish email and how to use Zoom. In some instances, clients reported to the program with their teenage children, and they were involved in teaching the parent how to access Zoom. This was especially common with Spanish speaking clients.
- All clients who chose to remain in the program showed strong determination to continue their treatment and to complete their programs. We were most skeptical of the value of telephonic face-to-faces and these have been revelatory. We have learned that clients speak openly and freely about their current challenges both financial and with their addiction and it is hard to limit the interviews to 15 minutes.
- The corporate (administrative office) for SCS and School Ten immediately took measures to support program sites including purchasing and distributing tablets and laptops to program sites to enable access to Zoom, eliminating all unnecessary expenses, setting up the Zelle payment platform to enable clients to make payments online, negotiating and securing rent relief for most program sites, securing cleaning products and face coverings and distributing to all program sites, applying for every type of SBA financial relief available. Income has plummeted, there have been almost no new client referrals as all courts in California have been closed to the public for nearly a month, and many clients have lost jobs. On a daily basis, the corporate office communicates with all program directors and many staff about the importance of TEAMWORK during this crisis and emphasizes the importance of collaboration and persistence.
SCS was established in 1975, School Ten was established in 1979. The COVID-19 Pandemic is the greatest challenge these businesses have faced. We are determined to survive and continue to provide SUD treatment services, satisfy the deliverables of our DUI MAT grants, and maintain financially viable businesses to meet all obligations to our employees and their families.