In human services, and especially the world of TCOM, we spend most of our time interacting directly with the public. TCOM as an approach to human services management, in fact, prides itself on keeping the human while gaining the power of digitization for the work we do serving children and families directly.
This is one of the first reasons that this current COVID-19 outbreak is so challenging: because it gets right in the way of our day-to-day work helping people, exactly when they most need it. I know all of us our currently scurrying around to meetings discussing plans that both keep our staff safe, while simultaneously helping our consumers through a really hard time.
I have been reading widely on this. The National Association of Social Workers has put out this helpful bulletin (https://www.socialworkers.org/Practice/Infectious-Diseases/Coronavirus). They encourage advocacy from those of us working in human services, especially for the services our clients need. They also talk about advocating for reimbursement for teletherapy right now, because people will need support in their quarantines, while simultaneously our staff would be safer in such situations as well.
The Center for Disease Control has put up helpful tips for schools and childcare providers (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/index.html), which can be helpful regardless of the particular part of the human service system you work in. They highlight this helpful bullet list:
- Make hand cleaning supplies readily available.
- Encourage [clients] and staff to stay home if sick.
- Monitor absenteeism.
- Plan for digital and distance [case management and therapy].
- Be prepared to temporarily dismiss or close [your program] and cancel events.
- Short term dismissals for cleaning and contact tracing if you have a case.
- Longer dismissals if you have substantial spread in your area.
- Plan ways to continue student services such as meal programs if schools close.
- Stagger staffing or schedules to reduce in-person interaction.
- Work with your local health department for guidance on closures and re-openings.
Just implementing half of these ideas is serious effort, so please make sure to do this as a team in your organization, where everyone takes some responsibility for complying with basic public health standards.
The focus on teletherapy stressed in these documents is being echoed across the field. Most importantly, over the last week both the federal government, and many commercial insurance companies have offered a general nod towards reimbursing for teletherapy. Details are still emerging, but in general, the general nudge towards telemedicine that has been happening over the last 15 or so years, is suddenly getting shoved into reality… and fast. And this will have direct effect on our humble world of human services outcomes and data.
The most obvious example is that soon—if not already—workers are going to start doing CANS online with their clients. At our office, we’ve already received emails asking us about the use of CANS virtually. It is probably worthy of several blog posts on its own, but I’d like to say here that yes, working online with clients will be uniquely challenging, and the TCOM process can both be really helpful for this new way to work, while also requiring much creativity. For instance, things like capturing family dynamics, or elegantly working teams towards appropriate action level rating, will certainly require new skills. Simultaneously, though, using the CANS to structure online interventions ensures comprehensiveness, and can offer a path through what will otherwise be a disorienting form of interaction for both the client and the clinician.
As stated, I’m sure there’s a lot more to say about TCOM in the virtual world … as well as in this time of COVID-19. In fact, to a certain extent, all of our TCOM projects at this time are of utmost importance, because we are not just serving those in need, but also recording data to help us understand what is happening, and hopefully how to react. Please stay safe, and let’s work to stay ahead of this horrible pandemic.