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Creativity Within Crisis

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Creativity Within Crisis


It’s been an intense few weeks with an all-hands-on-deck approach here at Caz Recovery. As you can imagine, we’ve been hard at work developing plans for COVID-19. According to Governor Cuomo’s NYS on PAUSE executive order, we’re an essential business as we provide crucial healthcare operations in our residential healthcare facilities and licensed substance abuse treatment. Our community projects currently in progress throughout Western New York also qualify as essential construction as these projects include affordable housing.

We are continuing to adhere to our mission of helping people with substance use disorders. In the face of this crisis, the people we support need our services now more than ever. At the start of the COVID-19 emergency, programs and offices implemented symptom screening and cleaning schedules. Meanwhile, our Executive Team held daily meetings to discuss and coordinate our agency-wide response. Thankfully, we’ve been able to use this crisis to demonstrate our creativity as an organization.


It is widely acknowledged that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is in short supply across the country for healthcare providers like Caz Recovery. However, the creativity of our staff and residents will help us make it through.

Andrea Ocasio, our Director of Clinical Services, found a helpful video with instructions on creating DIY facemasks. Staff throughout the organization found the required items to construct them. These items included rubber bands, a stapler, and very thick paper towels. Michelle Harvey, Case Manager at Turning Point House, worked with her residents to make their own temporary masks in small groups. They even made homemade cleaner together. Meanwhile, Latoya Seals, Site Supervisor at Casa Di Vita, had her residents construct masks with Jennifer Aguilar, Counselor Associate.

We’re also relying on some very generous PPE donations. Jane Gajewski, our Director of Food Services, has a friend who is a seamstress. She sewed dozens of homemade fabric masks that are reusable and washable. These masks were distributed to our Supportive Living and Housing offices. We also received 500 disposable facemasks from the Erie County Department of Health.

Some of the DIY masks and cleaner from across the agency


Technology has been another major factor in our response. Thanks to a partnership with the Center for Court Innovation last year, we’ve been implementing tele and videoconferencing across the agency for months. This gave us a welcome head start on the recent rush to incorporate these practices into healthcare and other sectors. To help with this, we ordered and deployed new laptops and iPads in March to help us adjust quickly to this new reality.

While we’ve used aspects of this technology for a little while, our Program Managers have incorporated it in new ways in response to the crisis. Carolyn Kirkwood, Program Manager at Madonna House, and Erin DeWolfe, Site Supervisor at Somerset House, coordinated a pilot videoconference call with a resident transferring between their programs. This allowed the resident to get to know staff at Somerset House before leaving Madonna House.


We’re also just starting to incorporate flexible support groups in our Community Residences as another pilot project. Jess Bennett, Wellness Coordinator, and Danyel Brewer, Nutritionist, are holding their groups on wellness and nutrition. They had a very successful initial session at Sundram Manor where they played Nutritional Jeopardy with the whole house. Residents said the activity was very informative and they can’t wait to see Jess and Danyel again. We’re also working on a similar format for vocational sessions. These pilot groups will rotate between programs.

Other exciting things are happening, too. This includes the possibility of providing case management services for people who are unable to be admitted into our residential programs. We’re also hiring flexible staff members who will specifically cover shifts at multiple locations in anticipation of potential staffing shortages. Finally, our programs are also doing what they can to give back to the community. Rebecca Martina, Casa Di Vita’s Food Services Specialist, worked with Jennifer Aguilar and the program’s residents to bake dozens of cupcakes. These were decorated and distributed to local essential business and programs. The cupcakes even came with a card that read: “Thank you for coming to work today! We appreciate your dedication. Please enjoy the cupcakes. They’re essential – just like you!”

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