Donna L. Belusar, Ph.D.

President / CEO ADEC, Inc.

Hello, ADEC. I am reaching out to you today with a personal message. To ADEC employees, I know you get emails from me and letters sent to your home. I just want to reach out and talk to each one of you,  but COVID-19 absolutely prevents me from doing this in person. We just cannot all get together. For families, many of you reach out to me either by phone or email. Please continue to do that.

Every day, whether it is a weekday or a weekend, my ADEC cellphone and computer are with me. They are an extension of me. I hear from employees or families or directly from our clients about the struggles, isolation and just exhausting efforts during these past nine months.

And gosh, the holidays will soon be upon us. I’ve missed the whole summer and fall is about over.  Like so many of you, I have not seen or have been with any of my family all year. I’ve turned into a two-dimensional webinar or online video chat person.

COVID has changed our lives dramatically. It has changed how our services can be provided and this affects our clients and their families. We know we just are not able to provide the outgoing, fun connectivity that is the hallmark of ADEC. The lights of Aux Chandelles are shining. We are so blessed to have such a great team. Thank you for that.

Given the current outlook for both Elkhart and St. Joseph counties, it does not look like COVID is going to let up any day soon. Elkhart County continues to be on orange status, as does St Joe County. Lagrange has just moved to red. The numbers change daily. Just yesterday, the seven-day average for state positivity rate was 10.3%, Elkhart at 14.7% and St Joe at 8.3%. Elkhart’s daily rate is running anywhere from 22 -25% now. Hospitals in Elkhart, Goshen, South Bend, and Mishawaka are at capacity, or close to it, and struggling with shortage of doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers. We are not alone, and it is discouraging to see how far reaching this is.  Health care workers in the midst of the catastrophe are sharing their feelings of being overwhelmed.  In a news report earlier this week by WSBT, Memorial Hospital VP of Medical Affairs Dr. Dale Paterson said, “We are in the midst of a catastrophe.” Dr. Michelle Bache, VP of Medical Affairs Elkhart General Hospital shared, “When you have a situation like this, that just so rapidly and aggressively consumes your resources, it is going to affect everybody, so we need the community to take this seriously.”

ADEC does take very seriously our responsibility to our employees and to the individuals and families we serve. We have a very comprehensive emergency preparedness plan that includes tabletop exercises on pandemics. We have extensive procedures and protocols throughout the agency. ADEC was the voice that led the state to declare workers in the intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) field to be essential.

Earlier this week Indiana Governor Holcomb announced reinstating some coronavirus limits as risk spreads.  In fact, our area made national news – both counties – given the significant increases in cases. We even made the Washington Post! It is scary and it is deadly out there. Several of our clients and  ADEC staff, your peers, are also getting hit with the virus. At a state level, the mask mandate has been extended for another month. At ADEC, wearing of masks is mandatory – in all roles.

I know how serious it is out there. I know how daunting and exhausting this is on everyone – especially the field staff. We have a shortage of staff, especially with staff being out with COVID, and there is considerable overtime. Many employees are taking on additional responsibilities to help meet the needs of those we serve. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, we are in contact, responding to staff, clients and families. I am in continuous contact with field management and staff and all administrative leads. I cannot do justice to how many of you are facing this trial, but with ADEC we are trying to help all of you, individually, during this time of struggle. We will help you by providing PPE, paid COVID time off, and counseling through our Employee Assistant Program. ADEC is here for you as I know you are here for our clients.

A big challenge we have is keeping our optimism, our hope. To all ADEC, it is a privilege and an honor to do the services we offer. Our mission, our clients, give me hope every day. For me, I try to count my blessings every day. Some days it is tough. Our work and our responsibilities can seem never-ending and with COVID – it isn’t ending. In fact, there’s more.

We are so very grateful to those working the front line in your jobs, especially in the field, whether you are a direct support professional working in a residential site or one of the other many roles in our programs, whether you are in an administrative role that is helping keep this agency running or you are full time or part-time, whether it is a weekday or weekend.

Every job is important. We are greater than the individual sum of our roles. We need each other. Our clients need us. Families need us. To bring choice and possibility to those we serve, we need every single member of #teamadec.

Yes, we are facing incredible shortage of staff and nearly every one of us is doing work and activities outside of our normal jobs. It could be grocery shopping or delivering PPE, picking up an extra shift, or just listening to the struggles your fellow ADEC staff member is having. There is a lot of overtime.

I speak from the heart. As many of you know, I grew up with a severe physical disability. For years I was dependent upon others to help me. I know how it affected the caregiver. When I had a medical crisis, I saw how it affected my caregivers and medical staff. I needed someone to wash my hair, someone to bathe me, someone to feed me, someone to comfort me and connect with me when my body could not. I know what it was like to be left alone, in pain, scared, with no help. That is why I have so much passion for what we do. So much care for what our field team does. I understand the vulnerability and needs of those we serve. I also understand the pressure and compassion of those providing the services.

Empathy and grace are two powerful emotions and actions we can offer to our clients and to each other. We are living in this COVID nightmare. It’s like a very bad movie, but it will end. Along the way, there is some compromise and temporary changes in our services. Throughout it all, there is hope. Someday soon, a vaccination may be available.

We are seeming to be on the downside of the wave we have been experiencing the last few weeks. This is good news. Clients who have tested positive are recovering – that is great news.

That is good news for the people we serve and each other. Several of the sites that were under quarantine for COVID, including group homes and supportive living sites, are ending their quarantine period and heading back to day program. ADEC has made the decision to continue day program for the well-being of clients and to ease the residential staffing so clients do not need to stay home.

COVID is exhausting and I pray you stay hopeful and positive as we can get through this. Keep being adaptable to changes. My message to families: please work with us as we navigate through this deadly virus. For ADEC: please wear masks and if you need personal protective equipment, ask your manager. Go to your upper management. They have PPE for you. I know many of us are sacrificing time away from our own families to help during this time. Thank you. I’ve already told my children and family “I’ll see you next year.”

Please stay optimistic. Please stay with us – as employees and as families. For #teamadec, you have sustainability bonuses coming in December and April. Encourage others to join our team. We just increased our new hire rate and recently all employees received merit increases.

For ADEC employees, today I’m announcing a special “Thankful” challenge to all ADEC. Starting today, you can send an email to [email protected]. Share a message of what you are thankful for.  It can be anything.

Every week, for the next nine weeks, we will be drawing three Thankful entries. Each selected entry will each receive a $100 Martin’s Super Market grocery gift card. How yummy. How Thankful. We’ll be running this through mid-January.

Every one of you in ADEC is needed and, if possible, I ask you to help even more.  All hands on deck are needed.

To our DSPs, our nurses, our q’s, med-flexs and q-techs, and all those in our 24-hour locations: we understand and fee the importance of your roles. From my own personal experience, and from my family members, I know how tough this can be – sickness and shortage of staff. However, I also know the incredible joy the field personnel can bring to someone.

I believe in you. I believe in ADEC. I am hopeful and optimistic. Please stay safe and be well. Thank you everyone and send a note of thankful reflection to [email protected].

Talk to you again soon