COVID-19

At Balance Autism we take the health and safety of those we serve very seriously.  As we closely monitor important, accurate information regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus) from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Iowa’s Department of Public Health, our intent is to remain cognizant and responsive to ensure the health and safety of our Balance Autism community.

Please check back often; we will utilize this website as a centralized means of communication for families and staff to address any important updates, precautions or temporary changes made to address the challenges of COVID-19.

 


5/28/21 Balance Autism Update

Re: Safety protocol changes effective June 1, 2021

Dear Individuals Served, Guardians and Families,

A year ago, we were inundated with ever-changing guidelines, CDC recommendations and new frequently used words like “quarantine”, “isolation” and “unprecedented times” to navigate the threat of COVID-19.  Thank you for working with us during this year to help ensure the safety of those we serve and our team members.  We recognize the stress and challenges of the pandemic impacted each of you in many different ways.  I also want to acknowledge our team members who have worked diligently to support those we serve while balancing safety with learning opportunities.

Today we find ourselves in a similar situation of evolving change, but now with intent to define post-pandemic life. At Balance Autism, our priority is to find a healthy balance of safety, learning opportunities, personal choice and human rights.

We remain committed to flexibility; just as we experienced a year ago, things are changing daily once again. Between June 1 and July 31, we are making the following changes to our safety protocols and procedures, but will continually review and assess our current state and adjust, as needed.

Youth Services - Children’s Clinics

Visitors: Balance Autism will continue to be mindful of visitors in all buildings. Tours and contracted work will be minimized, and will not be in direct contact in the learning centers while children are present.  All building visitors including family members and contractors will be expected to wear a mask. All visitors will continue to be screened upon building entry.  Daily screening questions and temperature checks will be discontinued for all children served.  Visitors will continue to pick up and drop off children at their vehicles.

Employees: All employees will continue to wear masks while working directly with children and/or within six feet of any child.  When employees are working and not around children, they may choose to not wear a mask if they are fully vaccinated. Staff who are not vaccinated will be required to wear masks if someone else is present. Daily screening questions and temperature checks will be discontinued for all employees.

Building Information: The clinics will continue frequent cleaning of high traffic and surface areas. Excessive cleaning protocols will decrease in time while still abiding by all rules and regulatory oversight. Children and employees will continue to utilize zones to minimize exposure to others, but exceptions will be made now for programming purposes.

Youth Services – HCBS

Employees: Employees will continue wearing masks while working directly with children in their homes and at community locations. If employees are working and not around children, they may choose to not wear a mask if they are fully vaccinated.  Staff who are not vaccinated will be required to wear masks if someone else is present. Daily screening questions and temperature checks will be discontinued for all employees.

Children Served and Families: Screening questions for children served and family members will be continued with some modifications. Temperature checks will be discontinued.

Campus and Youth Home (ICF/ID)

Because Campus and the Youth Home are licensed care facilities, we must follow DIA rules and regulations regarding all health and safety oversight. Many of the following protocols have not changed in this program for this reason.

Visitors: The visitor restrictions created a year ago are removed with the exception that visitors must still wear a mask including family members and contractors. We ask visitors primarily gather in their loved ones’ bedroom or other areas of the home away from other residents.  Daily screening questions and temperature checks will be continue for all visitors.

Employees: All employees will continue wearing masks throughout their shifts, regardless of vaccination status.  Daily screen questions and temperature checks will continue to for all employees and persons served.

Cleaning Protocols: All cleaning and sanitization protocols will continue to meet all regulatory requirements.

Adult Community Services – HCBS and HAB

Visitors: There are no restrictions regarding visitation of family members, friends or other visitors unless determined differently by the interdisciplinary team. All building visitors including family members and contractors will be expected to continue wearing a mask. All visitors will continue to be screened upon entry.

Employees: If an employee is fully vaccinated, he/she may choose to no longer wear a mask while working.  Staff who are not vaccinated will be required to wear masks if someone else is present.  While accessing the community, all employees and persons served (if tolerated) will continue to abide by businesses’ request for mask use. Daily screening questions and temperature checks will be discontinued for all employees and individuals served.

Cleaning Protocols: All homes will continue frequent cleaning of high traffic and surface areas. Excessive cleaning protocols will decrease in time while still abiding by all rules and regulatory oversight.

Adult Community Services – Employment Services

Employees: If an employee is fully vaccinated, he/she may choose to no longer wear a mask while working. Staff who are not vaccinated will be required to wear masks if someone else is present.  While accessing the community or places of employment, all employees and persons served (if tolerated) will continue to abide by businesses’ request for mask use. Daily screening questions and temperature checks will be discontinued for all employees and children served.

Administration

Visitors: Balance Autism will continue to be mindful of visitors in all buildings. Tours and contracted work will be minimized. All building visitors including family members and contractors will be expected to continue wearing a mask. All visitors will continue to be screened upon building entry. 

Employees:  If an employee is fully vaccinated, he/she may choose to no longer wear a mask while working.  Staff who are not vaccinated will be required to wear masks if someone else is present.  Daily screening questions and temperature checks will be discontinued.

Cleaning Protocols: Cleaning should continue in high traffic and surface areas. Excessive cleaning protocols will decrease in time while still abiding by all rules and regulatory oversight.

To date, many employees at Balance Autism have chosen to become vaccinated or are in the process of becoming fully vaccinated.  We take pride knowing we are well on our way to becoming a safer community and hope these immunization numbers continue to climb.  The COVID-19 vaccination series is not required of employees, but is highly recommended.

We remain vigilant to the world around us and will make revisions, as necessary, and prioritize this important communication to our Balance Autism community. If you have any questions at all, please contact your program coordinator.

Again, we thank you for your help and collaboration as we transition through this next phase of our response to Covid-19.

Sincerely,
Steve Muller, CEO


 

 


February, 2021 - Balance Autism COVID-19 Update

Dear Individuals, Families and Employees,
It doesn’t seem possible we are rounding out a full year of interruptions, modifications and global changes caused by COVID-19. But as we had hoped and envisioned, our Balance Autism community rallied together and has persevered through these challenging times.  We appreciate your understanding and assistance as we have all worked as one to keep the safety of those we serve and our employees our number one priority.
 
We continue to operate with COVID-19 impacting us at every turn but are optimistically looking to the summer for things to start returning to the way things were pre-pandemic. Sure, we expect a “new normal” in many instances, but as vaccination roll-out expands to the greater community, we remain hopeful the threat of COVID-19 weakens in time.
 
I want to take this opportunity to thank you, those we serve, their families and our team members.  We are entrusted to help change lives and to accomplish this mission while also minimizing the spread of a deadly disease.  As the nation mourns the loss of over a half million people, we have protected those we serve at Balance Autism and our team members.  We appreciate everyone’s assistance in making the best of a challenging situation. 
 
It’s important to note the significant efforts employees continue to make in each location and department to keep safety at the forefront of our day-to-day work.  The following accommodations were instituted last March and continue to apply to all programs at Balance Autism, while closely following CDC recommendations and making changes accordingly.

  • Anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms or common indicators of COVID-19 should not enter our buildings.  Symptoms include (but are not limited to): fever, cough, nausea/vomiting, sneezing, body aches, loss of taste/smell, etc.
  • Daily wellness checks for individuals, families and implemented at each location.
  • All employees, family members and individuals served (who are able to tolerate) are expected to wear a mask or face covering when around others.
  • If their positions allow, employees are still encouraged to work remotely. This reduces the number of people together in any given location.
  • The safety care committee, with employees representing every department, continues to meet regularly to work through any challenges and evaluate the overall wellness of the organization.
  • Increased daily cleaning regimens continue in effort to deter the spread of contagious illness.
  • Employees must be symptom-free for at least 48 hours without medical intervention (fever-reducing medication) before returning to work.
  • Most meetings are held virtually. All trainings have resumed and are held remotely or in-person with limited capacity.
  • Because long-term care is within our realm of services, Balance Autism is pleased and proud to be a healthcare provider, which qualifies us for early access to the COVID-19 vaccination. Partnering with Walgreens, all persons served in residential programs and all employees in Polk County were offered the vaccination. Additionally, all clinics across the state now have been provided with similar opportunities per local counties. To date, approximately 70% of all employees have completed the vaccination series or are scheduled to do so in the next 30 days.

YOUTH SERVICES

  • Clinics: As space allows, clinics continue to operate in “pods”, meaning we’ve intentionally divided individuals served and employees into separate rooms/spaces to minimize exposure risks and overlap. Additionally, employees remain designated to one or two children in each session to minimize cross-over. Both of these efforts have been beneficial in not only eliminating outbreaks, but also easing contact-tracing when COVID-19 cases arise.
  • All congregation in public areas (i.e. lobby) continues to be restricted. Clinic employees continue to meet children at parents’ vehicles for pick-up and drop-off.
  • We continue to follow CDC guidelines for quarantining after potential exposure.
  • Hourly HCBS:  Similar to clinics, we have implemented restrictions as to how many children an employee can work with in order to minimize exposure risks.  We also continue to work with families on a sanitization protocol. Individual plans for accessing the community are developed with each family and treatment team.  

ADULT SERVICES

  • Youth Home, Campus and HCBS Residential Services: Visitation is allowed and encouraged, and we ask guardians to continue coordinating with the manager in advance. All community engagement activities are still limited, but as more opportunities arise, we are looking at them on a case-by-case basis, taking into account each individual’s health risk with every chosen activity.  All medical appointments are being done as normal, but we continue to use masks and hygiene protocols during these visits.
  • Day Program/Day Habilitation: Balance Autism will continue to follow Governor Reynolds guidance regarding Day Program participation and attendance. Balance Autism provides transportation to and from based on the individual persons served/guardians desire, authorization, and availability of Day Program openings.  Some Day programs are closing off and on, and others have people on a waiting list due to serving fewer people at this time.
  • Employment Services: Paid employment continues at the discretion of employers, but we’ve had 24 return to their jobs since July 2020.  Job exploration or additional employment services continues to operate on a case-by-case basis.
We will continue closely monitoring updates provided by the CDC and State of Iowa to adequately maintain proactive measures against COVID-19. It has been a challenging year, but we remain impressed with the commitment and willingness of our community to take these guidelines seriously. Thank you for doing your part.
 
Sincerely,
 
Steve Muller, CEO

 


 

December 11, 2020 - Coronavirus Vaccinations
 
COVID-19 continues to be the topic of conversation any direction we turn. Now with news regarding vaccinations being readily available in the near future, there seems to be more “noise” than ever. Which articles are accurate? Where can we find reliable sources?
 
Balance Autism watches closely as new information is released every day.  We are here to decipher what is relevant, always considering how new news affects our Balance Autism community. The respected sources we turn to haven’t changed much from the beginning of this pandemic. We share these in hopes to make it a little easier to tune out the “fake news” and opinions, and simply stay informed with fact-based, reliable information.
 
Polk County Health Services – www.polkcountyiowa.gov
 
Iowa Department of Public Health – www.coronavirus.iowa.gov 
 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – www.cdc.gov/ 
 
Federal Drug Administration (FDA) – www.fda.gov
 
Besides the wealth of information you can find on each of these websites, here are some additional things we know to be true today.

  • Many vaccines are being developed and tested, but some might be ready before others – as early as late December 2020.
  • There will be a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, but supply will continually increase in the weeks and months that follow.
  • Because of limited supply, some groups will be recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine first. Healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents should be offered COVID-19 vaccinations in the initial phase of distribution.

Balance Autism operates ICF/ID programs and therefore considered a long-term health provider; this means we will have access to vaccinations for those living and working in our ICF/ID settings much sooner than they are readily available to the public.
 
We are awaiting clarification on whether or not our HCBS Adult Services – individuals served and employees – are included in this group, as well.

  • Balance Autism has partnered with Walgreens to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to our client base and employees in the future.
  • Vaccinations will be administered at no cost throughout the U.S.
  • Currently COVID-19 vaccines may not be recommended for children. This may change in the future after more trials have been completed.

 
As you consider how COVID-19 and the option to vaccinate affects you personally, we hope these resources are valuable to make an informed decision regarding the vaccination for both yourself and loved ones.

When we know more, we will share more!
 
Stay safe.


 

November 18, 2020 - Day Program

To:  Participants in the Adult Services Program with Day Program in their ISPs and Guardians

 

A week ago we issued communications regarding individuals returning to Day Program. However, due to Governor Reynold’s recent Emergency Disaster Proclamation she announced 11/16 in response to Iowa’s record-breaking COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Balance Autism will not be transporting individuals to Day Program after all. Specifically Sections One, Two and Six of the Proclamation speak to the individuals we serve or the Day Program environment itself. New limitations regarding indoor gatherings, suspended recreational activities and increased mitigation efforts are all reasons that directly affect the services received through Day Program.

While we recognize some adults enjoy the benefits of a day program we also value the health and safety of everyone we serve.  The Governor’s proclamation calls upon all Iowans to do what we can in response to this dangerous epidemic.

We will continue to monitor the status of these guidelines and follow the Governor’s recommendations as we move forward.  If you have questions, please contact your community services director.

Sincerely,

Scott Atwood, Ph.D., Vice President of Adult Services

 


 

November 5, 2020
 
Dear Parents and Guardians,

We hope this letter finds you safe and well. We appreciate your continued support as Balance Autism maintains the safety and well-being of the individuals we serve as our number one priority.
 
Recognizing the global pandemic challenges aren’t going away anytime soon, we understand a strong desire to create a new “normal” for the individuals we serve, our team and for all of you. Especially as we approach the holiday season, there are few things in this world more important than family. With this in mind, we have determined it’s absolutely necessary to find ways to safely provide opportunities for visits in every manner possible, and this includes allowing immediate family to visit in the homes of the individual we serve once again.
 
To do so safely, we have evaluated all current processes and procedures and have identified specific protocol that is individualized and specific to each home.  I commend the efforts of our Balance Autism staff members as our COVID-19 cases of the individuals we serve remains incredibly low, and we currently have no positive cases at this time. Therefore, effective immediately, home visitation may resume as soon as you are ready to visit again.
 
If you have questions or ready to safely visit your loved one in their home, please contact your program manager.  He or she will talk you through the parameters set in place and help get that visit lined up for you. In the meantime, we wish you and your loved ones a very happy upcoming holiday season full of joy, good health and peace.

Sincerely,
Scott Atwood, Ph.D.

 


 

COVID-19 Update – Adult Services and Youth Services

Phase 2 - Return from Home/Visitation Changes

June 4, 2020

Dear Individuals and Guardians,

 

We continue to monitor and review safety protocols and precautionary measures on behalf of our Balance Autism community. We feel we are in a place to remove one more limitation (set previously out of safety) for the individuals we serve.  Individuals have been able to resume home visits (for day trips only) with their guardians and loved ones since May 15.  Overnight visitation will be permitted again on and after Monday, June 8, 2020. Please contact the Program Manager to arrange these visits.

The additional precautions have not changed and we continue to use these as safety guidelines at Balance Autism:

1.      Visitors inside homes and buildings continue to be restricted.  Only staff members currently working will be allowed to enter and must follow strict safety precautions.  As an individual transitions from a home visit to Balance Autism (and vice versa), staff will assist you in the driveway. Health screenings have been established and will be implemented consistently as individuals served leave and return.

2.      Following government guidelines, we will slowly and cautiously reintroduce community outings and activities outside the home on an as-needed basis. Each individual will be evaluated to determine his/her level of risk for exposure and/or threat of serious illness. Age, underlying health conditions, medications, ability to remain six feet apart from others, tolerance of wearing a mask, risk assessment of his/her roommates, etc are all considerations we’ve utilized to make this determination.  Individuals considered to be moderate or high risk, or living with individuals with moderate or high risk, will continue to follow current protocol (only going to essential appointments, not visiting any businesses or restaurants, etc.) Those with low risk may slowly resume occasional community involvement, such as essential shopping, appointments, going to work, etc. In all scenarios, we will encourage individuals to wear a fabric mask in public (IF they will tolerate), provide support for frequent hand washing/use hand sanitizer and monitor social distancing the best that they can.

3.      Following employer guidelines and practicing safety measures, individuals with autism (those who aren’t considered high risk or live with someone considered high risk) will be permitted to resume employment as soon as they are ready and the situation allows.

4.      Individuals attending Day Programs will not resume at this time.  Future participation in this service will largely depend on safety accommodations made by the provider.

All processes and procedures outlined above are intended to be followed thru June 22. At that time, we will evaluate the status of our environment and assess whether we can move into the next phase of lifting more restrictions. If, at any point, the safety of any individual is jeopardized, we reserve the right to return to more stringent set of procedures.

We remain cautious and committed to keeping safety our number one priority.  Our staff corona cases remain incredibly low (14 cases).  We have taken the necessary steps to isolate these incidents and manage the spread at Balance Autism to this point. We celebrate our awesome employees – it’s their commitment and follow-through of safety protocol that has made all the difference.

If you have any questions, please contact your Program Manager.

Stay safe and be well,

Steve Muller, CEO

 


05/28/2020 - Our Staff - Our Heroes

As time goes on and our world continues to evolve in the face of a global pandemic, one thing remains constant – our employees and their commitment to our organization and the people we serve. These unsung heroes are direct support professionals providing frontline, essential services to individuals with autism. They are managers and leaders empowering and supporting one another. They are our administrative staff making sure day-to-day operations remain uninterrupted.

We are very thankful for our fantastic team and appreciate all or their hard work and dedication to Balance Autism!


05/12/2020 – COVID-19 Update – Adult Services and Youth Home
Phase 1 Return from Home/Visitation Changes

Dear Individuals and Guardians,

As we approach month three of the current pandemic, we thank you for being flexible and understanding of difficult decisions we’ve made to keep safety our number one priority. As the state begins to open back up, we remain cognizant of all safety precautions established within the Balance Autism community and will continue to strictly follow these protocols.  That said, our COVID-19 Taskforce and leadership teams are currently working together to develop new plans as we transition toward the coming weeks and months to a new “normal” for individuals served, their families and employees.

As we look to the future to try and establish new routines and ways of life, many things remain uncertain. However, as constraints are lifted across Iowa, we must consider a phased approach to return to the least restrictive, yet most supportive, environment as possible.

Moving forward we will implement new/revised protocol throughout this important transition. We are most excited to lift some limitations of home visits and provide a little flexibility around time you’re able to spend with your loved one again. We also address community involvement, employment services and day program participation below.

  • The extended home visits/no return policy will end.  As soon as individuals (who have been staying with loved ones during this time) are ready to move back to their Balance Autism home, they may do so starting Monday, May 18.  Program Coordinators will be reaching out to you early this week to schedule a date and time of return.

Please note: We have established safety procedures to follow for each individual upon his/her return to Balance Autism.  This includes a thorough health assessment of the individual by one of our nurses, a questionnaire for the guardian so we can determine current health status and any potential exposure to illness in recent days.

  • For those who have remained quarantined in their Balance Autism homes, individuals may resume home visits with their guardians and loved ones on or after May 15.  These visits include day visits only; overnight visitation will not be permitted just yet.  You should contact the Program Manager to arrange these visits.
  • Visitors inside homes and buildings continue to be restricted at this time.  Only staff members currently working will be allowed to enter and must follow strict safety precautions.  As an individual transitions from a home visit to Balance Autism (and vice versa), staff will assist you in the driveway. Health screenings have been established and will be implemented consistently as individuals served leave and return.
  • Following government guidelines, we will slowly and cautiously reintroduce community outings and activities outside the home on an as-needed basis. Each individual will be evaluated to determine his/her level of risk for exposure and/or threat of serious illness. Age, underlying health conditions, medications, ability to remain six feet apart from others, tolerance of wearing a mask, risk assessment of his/her roommates, etc are all considerations we’ve utilized to make this determination.  Individuals considered to be moderate or high risk, or living with individuals with moderate or high risk, will continue to follow current protocol (only going to essential appointments, not visiting any businesses or restaurants, etc.) Those with low risk may slowly resume occasional community involvement, such as essential shopping, appointments, going to work, etc. In all scenarios, we will encourage individuals to wear a fabric mask in public (IF they will tolerate), provide support for frequent hand washing/use hand sanitizer and monitor social distancing the best that they can.
  • Following employer guidelines and practicing safety measures, individuals with autism (those who aren’t considered high risk or live with someone considered high risk) will be permitted to resume employment as soon as they are ready and the situation allows.
  • Individuals attending Day Programs will not resume at this time.  Future participation in this service will largely depend on safety accommodations made by the provider.

All processes and procedures outlined above are intended to be followed thru May 31. At that time, we will evaluate the status of our environment and assess whether we can move into the next phase of lifting more restrictions. If, at any point, the safety of any individual is jeopardized, we reserve the right to return to more stringent set of procedures.

As you read through the changes we are making while we all still try to navigate extraordinary circumstances, I recognize this may invoke feelings of fear and uncertainty. Be assured our dedication to the individuals we serve, you and our employees is as strong as ever, and we remain cautious and committed to keeping safety our number one priority.  Our staff corona cases remain at a total of 11, just 2% of our 400 employees, as well as one individual served; we are happy to report all have fully recovered and most employees have been released by their doctors to return to work by now. As we see outbreaks occurring in long-term care and other residential facilities, I believe we have taken the necessary steps to isolate these incidents and manage the spread at Balance Autism to this point. It is with commitment and follow-through of our staff that have made all the difference.

If you have any questions, please contact your Program Manager. As we move forward, let’s take one day at a time and, eventually, we will put COVID-19 behind us.

Sincerely,
Steve Muller, CEO

Phase 1 Off-Site Visitation Procedure (May 16th –until further notice)
Phase 1 = No overnight visits (day visits only)

  1. Guardian(s) will call Program Managers and schedule an off-site visit with Person Served.
  2. Guardians will remain in the drive way when picking up the individuals for the visit, and staff will assist with bringing the individual to the vehicle.
  3. Staff will take the temperature of the guardian(s) prior to assisting Person Served into the vehicle.
  4. If guardian’s temperature is within normal limits (97.6-99 degrees Fahrenheit – staff will assist PS into the vehicle. If outside of normal limits – staff will call leadership for further instructions.
  5. Upon return from the day visit – guardians will remain in the driveway and staff will go outside to assist the PS back into their home.
  6. Staff will assist the Person Served to change their clothes (if individual is compliant with request) and assist with washing their hands.
  7. Clothing will immediately be put in the washing machine to be cleaned.

PHASE 1 – Extended Return Procedure

  1. Program Coordinators will call guardians and schedule date and time of return for the Person Served.
  2. Program Coordinator will ask the following pre-screen questions:
    • Where has the Person Served traveled to in the past 14 days?
    • Was this Person Served exposed to any other individuals in the past 14 days?
    • If yes, was this person(s) showing any symptoms of illness such as coughing, fever, shortness of breath?
    • Has the Person Served shown or currently showing any symptoms of illness in the last 14 days?
    • Has the guardian(s), or any other members of the household shown or currently showing any symptoms of illness in the past 14 days?
  3. Program Coordinators will arrange for the return nursing assessment. Program Coordinator will check the nursing assessment calendar to schedule an available time. This can be located on the J drive, Adult Services, Extended home visit folder.
  4.  Guardians will take Person Served to the CAB nursing office. (All assessments will be conducted in this location by a nurse.).
  5. Following the assessment – if medically cleared, guardians will take Person Served to their Balance Autism site.
  6. Nursing staff will email and phone the Program Manager, Program Coordinator and Director of the site when the person is cleared to return to Balance Autism site.
  7. Program Manager will call the site and inform staff of the return of the person served to the site.
  8. Upon return to Balance Autism site – Guardian will remain in the driveway and staff will come out and assist the individual back into their home.
  9. All clothing will be immediately washed upon return, and Person Served will be assisted with showering.
  10. The individual returning will remain in their home for a one week time period with the exception of essential appointments only.

04/24/2020 – Clinic Services Update

Dear families:
Thank you for continuing to work with us as we all make our way through the changes that seem to come almost daily.  As we passed our original ending date of April 13th, and we remain unsure as to how long this will go on, we felt it would be best to send some further communication at this point.

We are currently serving approximately 50% of the children that are enrolled. Those services are through clinic, in-home and telehealth or a combination of those.  Your Clinic Supervisor is willing to work with you to try to get the right services in place for your child if you are ready.   As the telehealth capabilities are expanded, many of you can expect to see that added.

In the meantime, we will continue to allow absences that are directly related to issues surrounding the coronavirus outbreak without endangering enrollment as outlined in our absentee policy. We will continue to consider your child fully enrolled at Balance Autism, even if all services are currently suspended.

At the time you are ready to reinstate or expand services, you can expect that there may be some delays as we work through staffing, funding and space issues.  We remain conscious of the limitation of group size and are also restricting the number of contacts each staff may have in order to reduce risk of exposure. 

We plan to continue to update treatment plans and authorizations with your funder(s) if your child’s authorization period expires while services are suspended or greatly reduced. Expect us to communicate with you about this if this occurs.

In some cases, long term suspension of services may result in a new intake from the waitlist being offered an open session. While we intend to prioritize getting services to those children already enrolled, if we have the space and staff to do so and do not have enrolled children who are ready to take those openings, we will consider making the offer to children who are waiting for services. You will be notified prior to that happening and will have the option of claiming the spot before a new intake is given the opening.

We appreciate your confidence and collaboration with us and look forward to continue to partner with you to support your child. 

Sincerely,
Evelyn Horton, Vice President of Children’s Services


04/24/2020 – Residential Services Update

Greetings from Balance Autism. We hope this message you finds you healthy and well, despite all that is happening in our world today. Iowa’s cases of COVID-19 continue to climb and questions remain about our future we cannot answer yet. How long must we socially distance ourselves? When we will be able freely enjoy community outings with groups of friends or family? When will essential products be easy to find in stores again? We remain optimistic the answers to these questions will come sooner than later, but in the meantime, we continue to look forward, plan where we can and do our best to navigate our uncertain future…together.

As a safety precaution, we instituted a “do not return (mandated extended home visitation)” policy on April 3 for individuals going home for visitation. If individuals living in our residential programs made a home visit with a guardian or loved one, they must stay there for an extended period of time. Returning to their Balance Autism home poses a significant exposure threat to other high-risk individuals served and staff.    Our infectious disease task force, compiled of leaders across the organization, have determined we must extend this policy thru May 15. We have one confirmed case of COVID-19 of an individual we serve, and experiencing a rise in staff cases (nine as of 4/24/2020). Both the individual served and staff members seem to be doing well and all are expected to make a full recovery (or already have). But that doesn’t change the fact that, even despite every effort we are making to keep our Balance Autism community safe, this communicable disease is so easily spread to others.

In addition to extending this short-term policy for the time being, we continue to implement and maintain other precautions we have purposefully put in place to keep everyone as safe as possible.


  • Staff are required to wear masks at all times
  • We religiously promote healthy and frequent handwashing
  • Each staff is screened prior to each shift (as well as residents twice daily)
  • We have protocol in place for paid leave for employees exhibit symptoms and/or may have been exposed to COVID-19
  • Ongoing and regular cleaning of high surface areas is required of employees while working their shifts
  • There are no visitors permitted in any Balance Autism properties
  • We have restricted the number of homes an employee can work
  • Restriction of all group and community activities continues
  • All non-essential medical appointments have been postponed
  • We are practicing social distancing and maintaining a six foot distance between people whenever possible

Throughout this time, our intent has been to accommodate virtual communication between individuals served and their loved ones, as often as desired. If this is something you’d like to expand (and request additional communication), please contact your managing program coordinator and we will make every effort to make sure we are meeting your expectations.

We know things remain challenging but appreciate you and our staff members adjusting quickly as our current climate continues to evolve. Thank you again for trusting us during these unprecedented circumstances. 

Sincerely,
Dr. Scott Atwood, Ph.D.
Vice President of Adult Services


04/20/2020 – Thank You to our Essential Workers

https://www.balanceautism.org/thank-you-to-our-essential-staff-members/

Our employees are heroes. Right now they’re providing
critical support for individuals with autism. Their passion,
commitment and dedication make a life-changing difference –
now, more than ever. On behalf of those we serve, their families and our
leadership, thank you for everything you do.


04/20/2020 – COVID-19 Positive Employee Cases

Dear Families and Friends –  

Over the last week or so, we have confirmed five positive cases of COVID-19 within a few departments at Balance Autism. These cases are employees only; fortunately, no individuals served have been affected at this time. And most importantly, each of the five staff members seem to be recovering well at this time.
These employees, as well as any others that have been exposed or exhibiting related symptoms have orders to remain in quarantine and have not been working.  To minimize any chance of further spread, we have also temporarily closed our Clive clinic due to staff exposure and a confirmed case. (We are hopeful to reopen by Thursday). Both the youth home and a campus home have been impacted, as well. Commercial sanitization and cleaning has been scheduled for each location affected and will be completed immediately.
We continue to practice a number of protocols to keep safety at the forefront of our minds each and every day. Ongoing screening of employees still occurs at beginning of each shift and we require all employees to self-report if they are exhibiting symptoms, tested and/or have a confirmed, positive case of COVID-19. Staff confidentiality remains a priority, but/and it’s critical we are aware of any instances so we can act and respond accordingly.
By now, every employee of Balance Autism has received face masks to wear at all times. We are grateful to the number of volunteers who have gone above and beyond to make this precautionary measure possible. As more are received, we will continue to distribute across all departments so all staff have multiple masks to wear, wash, alternate, etc.

Lastly, we continue to practice precautionary measures we put in place weeks ago.

  • Regular and ongoing screening for both staff and individuals served
  • Limiting staff members’ locations of work to reduce cross-exposure from one home/department to the next
  • Remote work has been implemented for all administrative employees with responsibilities that allow them to do so
  • No community activities for individuals served
  • Clinics are providing in-home services or telehealth where available
  • No visitors are allowed in any Balance Autism homes or buildings
  • Extended home visits for those living in our residential programs
  • We continue to practice social distancing in every department and situation as possible

We take the health and safety of our Balance Autism community seriously throughout this unprecedented time. As the uncertainty continues into Month Two, some of us may find ourselves getting a bit stir-crazy or needing a “break” from the latest safety rules or guidelines put in place by our government and the CDC.  Now more than ever, it’s imperative we all try to refrain from returning to our “normal” ways of life. By continuing to practice social distancing and follow other recommended precautions both at work and home, we will continue, as an organization, doing our part to minimize the effects of COVID-19 to our Balance Autism community.

Sincerely,
Steve Muller, CEO


04/19/2020 – Clive Clinic Temporary Closure
Dear Parents and Staff,
Balance Autism is committed to providing services in our clinic and home settings in the safest way possible throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. We have taken many steps to reduce exposure wherever possible including stringent sanitization standards, reduced contact through separation, fewer staff serving each child and limiting access to treatment spaces.

Despite these precautions, we are now in a place that we must close the clinic and home based services in the Clive location due to the diagnosis of Covid-19 of a child, employee or household member of an employee or child served by Balance Autism. This individual started quarantine for the setting on 4/9/2020 and as a result the 14 day quarantine period will end the evening of 4/23 OR until the clinic has been commercially sanitized.

Because we can’t be certain of the extent of exposure, we ask that you voluntarily isolate as a precaution to deter community spread during this time.  Prior to opening our clinic again, we will have the building commercially sanitized to alleviate any additional chances of further exposure.

During this time, the telehealth portion of our services will continue where possible. If this is not a service model you are receiving but you are interested, please contact your Clinic Supervisor or Manager.

We will remain diligent in our efforts to protect children, families and staff and will inform you when we are able to re-open the clinic and/or home based service model(s).
Sincerely,
Steve Muller, CEO


04/07/2020 – CEO Update

As Governor Reynolds reported today, we continue to see the COVID-19 cases climb throughout our state.  Total confirmed numbers in Iowa reached a total of 1048, and sadly we have seen 26 deaths associated with the virus. Long-term care facilities and patients account for 11% of total cases and 46% of total deaths. This is especially important for us to note at Balance Autism because these high numbers are attributed to the population of high risk individuals, those living in close living quarters and in environments staff are working with multiple patients at a time. This is indeed why we are working hard to limit the number of homes staff are working in right now to two (or less). And we are grateful we have four roommates or less residing in each of our homes at this time.

As you may have heard, The CDC has released some additional recommendations regarding the use of face masks for protection and as a precautionary measure.   We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.  This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.  

Cloth face coverings don’t have to be surgical masks or N-95-respirators; by using alternative versions, this allows critical supplies to be reserved for healthcare workers and medical first responders.  We have several groups working on making masks for ALL staff at Balance Autism but are seeking more assistance. If you’re inclined to help, there are three ways to do so!

  1. Help sew masks! Donate your time and talent to get these essential masks in the hands of our employees.
  2. Donate fabric or elastic! Some supplies (especially elastic) are becoming harder and harder to find!
    Sign up to do #1 or #2 here:https://www.balanceautism.org/covid-19-ppe/

    3. Don’t sew or have supplies on hand but want to help? Consider a donation to replenish our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).  You can support us here: https://www.balanceautism.org/support-us/
    (Please put COVID-19 PPE supplies in the “donation in honor of” box.)

** If you’re interested in helping but have questions, please contact one of the individuals below:
Katie Princehouse (communications): kprincehouse@balanceautism.org  or 515-205-8250
 Teresa Whiteaker (campus nurse) : twhiteaker@balanceautism.org or 515–202-7789

In the meantime, we continue practicing any and all precautionary measures to maintain the safety and well-being of individuals served, as well as our employees.  One of the things we will begin later this week is deep cleaning in every Balance Autism owned home. During the time a house is being sanitized, residents will visit our Clive location for games and pizza in our large conference room there. Or, if residing on campus, those individuals my retreat to the store, administration building or outdoor activities. After the home is cleaned, sanitization employees will then visit the alternative location to maintain thorough cleanliness there, as well.

It’s important to note we have no known or suspected cases of COVID-19 within the Balance Autism community at this time.  But we continue to preach all necessary safety precautions to minimize any spread of contagious illnesses during these unprecedented times.

  • Stay home unless you’re working or in need of  necessary supplies (i.e. food and medication)
  • Wash your hands frequently and diligently
  • Maintain social distancing and stay 6 feet apart from others whenever possible
  • Use cloth face coverings when 6 feet separation from others is not possible, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

We remain incredibly thankful and appreciative of the hard work and dedication we are seeing across the organization from our staff members in all departments. Thank you for trusting and allowing us the opportunity to care for your loved one.

Sincerely,
Steve Muller, CEO


April 2, 2020 – World Autism Awareness Day!

null

Today, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day! In effort to build awareness, organizations and families all over the world promote this day as Light It Up Blue to build understanding and acceptance people with autism. We invite you to wear BLUE today in support of your loved ones and those we serve.

Although the ability to come together as a community has been restricted, the need to connect is stronger than ever. The CDC reports the prevalence of autism has increased to 1 in 54 people and it’s extremely important we continue to advocate for awareness and acceptance in our world today.

We’ve had to make substantial changes to special events and community gatherings recently, but still want to acknowledge April is Autism Awareness Month.  We invite you to take part in celebration and awareness initiatives throughout the month and get involved in any way you can.

Here are a few ideas you can try in support of those with autism (while practicing social distancing). Use your imagination and creativity!

* Wear something blue
* Swap out an outdoor light with a blue bulb for the month
* Make a sign and hang it in your window
* Be creative with sidewalk chalk
* Post a message of support on your Facebook or Twitter feed

null

It’s a time to celebrate those with autism, their families and employees like ours making a difference. Happy Autism Awareness Month from Balance Autism!

From April 1 – 4, Altoona is Going Blue for Autism Awareness Month by illuminating the water tower BLUE at night. It’s located near the Bass Pro Shop (and can be seen from Interstate 80).  If you’re in the area, it’d be a great excuse to get out and drive past!


March 31, 2020 – Visitation Changes, Residential Services

As we continue to see the cases of COVID-19 climb throughout the state of Iowa, Balance Autism must consider further precautions to maintain the health and safety of all residents and staff members.

On Friday, April 3, 2020 at 5 pm, Balance Autism will increase our precautionary measures and implement a “do not return (mandated extended home visitation)” policy for those going on home visitations.  We certainly can’t stop you from your taking your loved one home; however, at least temporarily, they will need to remain in your care indefinitely after April 3 should you choose to take your loved one home.

We know these circumstances are less than ideal and may create hardship for all involved.  However, we feel these steps are necessary to maintain the on-going safety for all residents and staff to further reduce unnecessary exposure of contagious illnesses.

If you would like to squeeze in a home visit before we implement this new policy, we want to give you an opportunity to do so.  Please contact your program manager to make arrangements.

Throughout this time, we will make every attempt to accommodate virtual communication (such as video conferencing through cell phones or computers). Our intent is not to keep you from your loved one, but keep them as safe as possible by staying in one place with very limited sharing of physical space and interaction with others.

Additionally, Balance Autism is maintaining other safeguards we established previously. We continue to:

  • screen staff prior to each shift (as well as residents twice daily)
  • restrict the number of homes an employee can work
  • minimize which and how many employees are allowed in each home
  • promote healthy and frequent handwashing
  • restrict all group and community activities
  • postpone all non-essential medical appointments
  • practice social distancing

We know this is a difficult time for everyone and appreciate your understanding as we navigate these uncharted waters. We are proceeding with a “this is temporary” mentality and look forward to putting this uncertainty behind us.  We will re-evaluate this policy by May 1 and will continue communicating with you regarding all temporary changes we’ve made throughout this pandemic.

Thank you for trusting us with your loved one today and always.

Sincerely,
Dr. Scott Atwood, Ph.D.
Vice President, Adult Services


03/27/2020 – Proclamation of Public Health Disaster Emergency

On Thursday, March 26, Governor Reynolds issued her second Proclamation of Public Health Disaster Emergency this week.  There are components of the Proclamation that affect Balance Autism practices and protocol. We have outlined those items below.

Mandatory Screening of Health Facility Staff requires all residential care facilities to screen staff at the beginning of each shift.  (Each screen includes checking for fever and respiratory symptoms, absence or shortness of breath and any new symptoms such as cough, sore throat and temperature).  Not only is this already in place, we have also started daily screening persons served, as well.

Health Facilities Regulatory Relief suspends requirements or regulations to either enforce precautionary protocol or remove barriers for organizations to provide adequate and efficient care for individuals served. 

  • This proclamation removes the requirement that we assist residents in regular dental and medical services. All health care providers are required to suspect all nonessential or elective medical surgeries or procedures after 5 pm today.
  • We are typically required to ensure our individuals are participating in group activities. This rule has been suspended to enforce social distancing.
  • Under normal circumstances, staff members must be Certified Medication Aides (CMAs) to be able to pass medications to individuals on campus and in the youth home.  This Proclamation expands the number of staff with the ability to pass medications by also allowing Medication Managers to do so.

We are happy to report we have already starting implementing most of these changes at Balance Autism. And though these accommodations listed are specific to our intermediate care facilities (campus and youth home), we are also duplicating these efforts in all of our residential programs (HCBS included). 

Should you have questions, please contact your program coordinator.

Sincerely,
Steve Muller, CEO


3/26/2020 – Balance Autism Update to Staff, Families & Friends

As the pandemic of COVID-19 continues, we remain thoughtful around planning to the best of our ability and respond when this journey takes us in a different direction than we were anticipating. Here are a few recent updates of what is happening across our organization:

  • Cross training has begun so staff members experiencing a reduction in their hours may pick up additional shifts in our residential programs.
  • Telehealth has been approved and expanded; we are currently working with families to eva