Your gift to Pittsburgh Mercy during The Pittsburgh Foundation’s #OneDay Critical Needs Alert on Wednesday, August 19 will provide life determining services for Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable populations. Your gift will leverage additional funds from the Pittsburgh Foundation. Preschedule today or make a donation on August 19 at www.pittsburghgives.org/Pittsburghmercy.
When Governor Tom Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations as of March 19 to slow the spread of COVID-19, Pittsburgh Mercy, as an essential organization, faced the challenge of continuing to provide services to children, adolescents, and adults with the restrictions brought by the pandemic.
Pittsburgh Mercy has embraced telehealth as a way to keep providing services to those in our care at this time. In psychiatry, the clinical outcome so far shows that the persons served are more likely to visit and talk more, according to Dr. Jack Todd Wahrenberger, chief medical officer. Persons served have been grateful not to have to have office visits and especially not to have to use public transportation.
“Patient satisfaction is pretty good,” he adds. “For people who are really scared, this is good. It’s been a lifeline for people.”
Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net began offering telehealth visits to people experiencing homelessness who are served by Bethlehem Haven, Light of Life Mission, and other homeless services providers. Residents in our Intellectual Disabilities Services have been able to meet with their support coordinators via Zoom.
The Child & Adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program (C-PHP) staff began in March to develop new telehealth programming, which went live on April 13. Pittsburgh Mercy colleagues sent the children a packet of the materials they needed for group therapy before their start date, so they knew what the expectations are for each day. The children and adolescents quickly adapted and the program reported nearly 100% participation from our persons served for group therapy.
“I can’t speak highly enough of all the staff who got comfortable with ZOOM and created programming to accommodate our new PHP way of life,” says Nichole Sakmar, Child & Adolescent PHP supervisor. “We created a foundation for the new programming together, but they took so much time to really make it come alive.”
The COVID-19 restrictions also moved our School-Based Outpatient Services outside the school walls and into telehealth. In addition to wellness checks, our colleagues are encouraging youths to attend virtual groups.
“Our colleagues are doing a fantastic job reaching out to the students we serve,” says Lynne Napoleon, program administrator. “Because of the ability to use telehealth, our colleagues have become very creative in conducting sessions and show great flexibility.”
Colleagues are conducting more family sessions, particularly with the younger children, Lynne says, and this seems to work well to keep the children engaged. Colleagues are finding creative ways to use games and activities to help those we serve practice skill building, like self-control, feelings identification, positive self-regard, and task completion/ prioritization.
And beyond physical and behavioral health, Pittsburgh Mercy Parish Nurse & Health Ministry colleagues have moved into a different concept of telehealth, offering monthly virtual prayer gatherings, “Sharing our Light,” via Zoom that provide a quiet place and time to prayerfully reflect on whole-person health … balancing body, mind, and spirit.