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Story: Staying Connected During Physical Distancing

Friday, April 3, 2020

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[Clients] know that they’re still cared for and supported.
I hear that every single day.

Bobby Tsow

For our clients working through behavioral and mental health challenges, regular one-on-one meetings with trusted counselors are key elements of the recovery continuum.

When social distancing protocols posed a barrier to providing consistent support to clients, Bobby Tsow — a CCC Alcohol and Drug Counselor known to many as “Bobby T.” — and his teammates at the CCC Recovery Center (CCCRC) knew they would need to find a creative solution.

After around 18 years with CCC Recovery Center, Bobby has had countless face-to-face meetings with thousands of clients and coworkers and knows just about everybody. For Bobby, human connection is critical for supporting people who are working to transform their lives. But achieving this remotely felt like unknown territory.

Working together with Karen Kern, Senior Director of Substance Use Disorder Services, and the rest of the CCCRC primary counseling team, Bobby helped build a plan for supporting and stabilizing CCCRC clients, many of whom are especially vulnerable to relapse triggers during times of crisis. The team quickly set up a system that combines daily phone check-ins with weekly one-on-one meetings.

“I have a caseload of 30 clients right now,” said Bobby, “and the response has been phenomenal.” The team is seeing nearly complete attendance for their scheduled phone calls.

And it’s not all just formal check-ins either. “They’re blowing up my phone!” Bobby laughed, as his phone rang again. Clients are able to trust that the counseling team is still available to them—despite not being able to see them as often in person. Clients are leaning on their counselors in this difficult time, and Bobby knows the crew is coming through.

“They know that they’re still cared for and supported,“ he said. “I hear that every single day.”

CCCRC’s remote check-in plan lets the team continue to offer in-person intakes and evaluations, too.

Members of the CCCRC Intensive Outpatient Team practice social distancing while keeping the doors open to clients on site. From left: Bobby Tsow, Primary Counselor; Marissa Donovan, Peer Support Specialist; Jennifer Zimmerman, Administrative Support Specialist; Carmaleta Anderson, Primary Counselor. The doors are open — but don't get too close! Members of the CCCRC Intensive Outpatient Team practice social distancing while keeping the doors open to clients on site. From left: Bobby Tsow, Primary Counselor; Marissa Donovan, Peer Support Specialist; Jennifer Zimmerman, Administrative Support Specialist; Carmaleta Anderson, Primary Counselor.

“We’re still open for business,” Bobby said.

While most counselors are working remotely, the team has set up a rotation that puts two of them on site at all times. That keeps the doors open – albeit in the Old Town Recovery Center building for the time being – for the folks who need them most.

Bobby is clear that the success of CCCRC’s response to COVID-19 is largely due to critical support staff who are still doing their jobs while also adapting to new health and safety standards. He nearly tears up when he talks about how important their efforts are right now, and how grateful he is for their presence.

“They go above and beyond,” he said about team members like Marissa Donovan, Peer Support Specialist, Jennifer Zimmerman, Administrative Support Specialist, and others. “I don’t know if we appreciate that enough.”

“It’s the commitment, compassion and empathy,” Bobby said, describing what he’s observed from CCC employees over these past few weeks. “Keeping the human connection. That’s what has been so phenomenal.”

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