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.


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!

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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

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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 evaluate if this is a viable option for those not able to attend sessions in clinic.
  • Balance Autism believes we are an “essential service”.  We will continue to provide services depending on staff availability, even if our state “shuts down” as others have around the nation.
  • We continue to prohibit visitors into Balance Autism buildings and homes for the safety of our individuals served.  For guardians of individuals in our residential services, you are welcome to take your loved ones to your home, of course. We will meet you at the door and help your loved one to your vehicle.
  • We discourage frequent home visits because it increases the chance of our individuals’ exposure to illness.  However, if you’d like to schedule a home visit this weekend, please contact your program coordinator to make arrangements. Long-term home visits (taking individuals home and not bringing them back to Balance Autism for an extended period of time) may be our next precautionary step of quarantine, if necessary.

As this pandemic continues to evolve and many aspects of our lives become increasingly more complicated, I am encouraged by the frequent stories of support and comradery shown among our employees. It is this feeling of community that gives me a sense of hope that we will be stronger organization once we can say the worst has passed.

Sincerely,
Steve Muller, CEO

P.S. Though some of our plans have needed to be  altered, we are still celebrating our 25th Anniversary.  Don’t miss our “25 Ways to Celebrate” contest going on right now! Follow us on Facebook for updates.


3/23/2020 – Managing Stress and Anxiety

We have all been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another.  The pandemic has left many of us trying to manage high stress and other strong emotions while we navigate the uncertainty of our current situation.  While most of us are responsible for the well-being of others, it’s just as important to take care of yourself, too.  The CDC has put together some tips and other resources that might be helpful for you to manage a healthy mind and spirit.

  • Stay informed but take time to disconnect; take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media.
  • Take care of your body. Try to maintain a healthy diet by well-balanced meals, exercise regularly (even a walk around the block can do wonders), get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to relax and unwind. Try and engage in other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others via video (i.e. Facetime, Facebook Messenger, Skype) or phone call. Don’t be afraid to talk about your concerns and fears; we all have them!
  • Maintain a regular routine, even if you are isolated at home.Get up and go to bed at the same time, and include as many of your typical daily activities as possible (i.e. cleaning, exercising, working/studying, reading, etc.)

 Additionally, if you are an employee of Balance Autism and find yourself struggling, don’t hesitate to take advantage of our free Employee Assistance Program (EAC) through Sun Life.  You’ll start by registering a new account and entering the Web ID: EAPEssential. This program offers a variety of resources you may find incredibly helpful now or in the future (confidential emotional support, work-like solutions, legal guidance, and more).


3/20/2020 – Clinic Update – Letter to Parents/Guardians

Dear Parents and Guardians –
Balance Autism is committed to providing quality services while maintaining the safest possible environment. Our intention is to continue services as long as we can safely do so, however, in our ever-changing environment we would like to be prepared if the model needs to change. For that reason, we’d like to talk with you about possible services options in the upcoming weeks.

  • Clinic-Based: These are our most intensive services and our typical service model. Clinic-based services are currently available and our staff are working hard to maintain a clean/safe environment. For this reason we have changed drop off/pick up procedures, stopped all visitors from entering our lobby and treatment spaces, added a robust cleaning/disinfecting protocol throughout and between sessions, and in some locations, changed session times to ensure we are able to practice social distancing. We are also able to reduce interactions with other staff and other children by the fact we have fewer children attending each session. This is the setting that makes our staff the most comfortable because they are involved in and aware of the sanitization rigor.
  • In-home services: In-home services depend on staff availability.  This option allows us to send a staff to you. We would assign one or two staff to be your providers. Staff that visit you are not coming from another home in order to reduce any possibility of cross contamination. This is why availability may be more limited.
    • This service option requires you answer the in-home screen questions ensuring those in the home have not been exposed or showing symptoms of COVID-19.
    • In-home services also require you adhere to the cleaning and sanitization steps to ensure staff have a safe place to provide services.
    • Clinic supervisors will need to remotely monitor services and may zoom into session to observe staff as they run programming.
    • This service option required a responsible adult remain in the home during the treatment session.
    • Documents for in-home services are attached.
  • Telehealth Service: Balance Autism has a telehealth service model previously used to reach rural Iowans & those on our waiting list. This model involves intensive parent training/parent led sessions. Sessions are 1 to 1.5 hours. The number of days per week will depend on your child’s needs and staff availability. We will provide programs; we will teach you to implement the programs by providing instruction and feedback via live video. We will take data and measure your child’s progress. 
    • This model may be restricted by your funding stream. Iowa Medicaid has approved it, but not all primary insurance carriers have.
    • You will need wireless internet & a laptop/tablet that is capable of video conferencing with picture and sound.
    • The benefits to this model of parent run sessions in the home include increased instructional control, built in generalization across environments, and maintenance of skills if clinics are unable to remain open.
    • The draw backs would include less intensive services and possible disruption to your schedule.

Please follow up with your clinic ASAP and speak to a clinic supervisor or director so we can finalize a plan for your child/family.

Thank you,
Clinic Directors –
Lindsay Ward, Clive
Larisah Sheldon, Cedar Falls/Burlington
Brad Bezilla, Cedar Rapids
Lisa Daniel-Way, Altoona
Sean Saito, Quad Cities


3/20/2020 – Iowa Total Care Scam Alert

We have received word that some of Iowa Total Care members may be receiving a text message asking them to click on a link as to sign up for meals – this is a SCAM. Please alert them not to click on the link. Here is what the message says:
“Iowa Total Care is going to be providing 2 meals per household member who is insured by Iowa Total Care. As of right now the clients have not been given a start date, but they can sign up for the service now.”


3/19/2020 – Update from Steve Muller, CEO

We continue to closely monitor the development around COVID-19 and are paying close attention to government recommendations or mandates that affect our individuals served.

  • Our senior leadership team is meeting frequently (daily or more) to recap the current climate, note any major changes and make important decisions on behalf of the organization.
  • We have enforced remote-work for any staff member who has responsibilities that can be completed from home.
  • We started cross-training staff from other departments so that those losing hours in their “home” department may have the opportunity to pick up additional shifts in a different area.
  • We’ve recently learned Telehealth is now available for many organizations and services. We are currently working through how Balance Autism may be able to offer services under this model. We anticipate utilizing this resource for some receiving clinic/ABA services and potentially some of our adults in supported employment. 
  • We continue to adequately monitor and order supplies to maintain the health and safety for those we serve.
  • We have protocols in place for isolation if/when individuals served become symptomatic.
  • We updated, written procedures to address cleaning and sanitation in our work environments.
  • We are limiting the number of staff working with each individual or home to minimize exposure to others.

Of course we are all inundated with updated information around COVID-19; Balance Autism continues to pay close attention from news and updates from the Center for Disease Control, Iowa Department of Public Health, Polk County Health Services, Iowa Association of Community Providers and the Council of Autism Service Providers.

We will continue to share new information as it becomes available. Things may get worse before they get better, but I am incredibly encouraged by the stories I’m hearing of our team members taking good care of your loved ones throughout this challenging time.

Steve Muller, CEO


3/17/2020 – Day Programs Closing

The state has directed all adult day programs to be closed effective today at noon.  We are closely monitoring these decisions and may need to make adjustments to our ABA Clinic Services.  Please stay informed through our emails and Facebook page to stay up to date on this fluid situation.  Meanwhile, stay safe and respect these community boundaries.  Together we can get through this challenge.


3/16/20202 – Letter from Steve Muller, CEO

Dear Individuals and Families,

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.

We have a dedicated task force closely monitoring developments and reviewing our infectious disease procedures to address potential complications we may experience in the future.  These challenges include (but are not limited to): staffing, service interruption or closings, access to important supplies, education of prevention/detection of persons served and the implementation of an effective communication plan with those we serve, their families and our employees. 

In the meantime, we are immediately implementing some temporary but necessary precautions, under the guidance of the CDC and Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), to reduce exposure and the potential spread of this very communicable illness.

Clinic Services (all locations)
– Balance Autism will make an independent decision to close (or remain open), separate from school districts. As the need arises, we will consider a number of factors and will make the best choice for our individuals served, families and staff at that time.
– If a family elects to take a temporary leave from service during the next four weeks we will not count these absences against overall attendance. Please communicate your intentions so we can prepare staff for any changes.
– We are eliminating all congregation in public areas (i.e. lobby). Clinic staff will begin meeting children at your vehicles for drop-off and will walk children to your car at the completion of their daily services. 
– We may explore in-home services temporarily, if closing the clinic becomes a necessary action.

Youth Home/Campus/Adult Community Services (24-hour care)
– Visitation will not be permitted over the next four weeks. Only residents and staff will be allowed to enter homes owned by Balance Autism.
– If guardians wish to care for their loved ones exclusively in their own home (for an extended home visit), they are welcome to do so throughout the duration of this uncertain time.  However, we want to avoid back-and-forth activity from guardian’s residence and the individual’s home (at Balance Autism) to further reduce roommates and staff to unnecessary exposure.
– Balance Autism will invest up to $500 for food at each home to help with food reserves.
– All community engagement activities have been discontinued at this time.
– Individuals served exhibiting flu-like symptoms will receive immediate medical attention. All other planned essential medical appointments and intervention will continue as normal.  

Hourly HCBS (SCL/Respite)
We will restrict planned community engagement for individuals receiving community based programming. Our program coordinators will work with the individuals/guardians to determine whether alternative options during this time of isolation; final determination will be made at the discretion of the program director.  A separate document will outline requirements including screening and sanitation for services provided in the homes of our individuals served on an hourly basis.

Day Program/Day Habilitation
Due to the CDC’s recommendations to avoid gatherings of 50 participants or more in a single location, Balance Autism will not be transporting individuals to Day Program (both for those attending ours and other organizations). If individuals continue to attend Day Program utilizing their own, personal resources they will be screened upon their return.

Supported Employment
– Paid employment will continue at the discretion of employers. 
– Job exploration or additional employment services will operate on a case-by-case basis.

Changes for ALL Programs
In addition to the specific changes noted above, the following accommodation we will immediately apply to all programs at Balance Autism:
– Anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms should not enter our buildings at this time.  Symptoms include (but are not limited to): fever, cough, sore throat, sneezing, body aches, etc.
– Daily wellness checks for individuals, families and staff will be implemented at each location.
– We are acquiring a substantial supply of basic necessities for temporary isolation.
– We have increased our daily cleaning regimen to deter the spread of contagious illness.
– We are enforcing a strict rule for our staff; they must be symptom-free for at least 48 hours without medical intervention (fever-reducing medication) before returning to work.
– All non-essential meetings will be postponed. All essential meetings will be held remotely. Program Coordinators or managers will communicate all necessary details and measures to establish this temporary accommodation.

Additionally, we ask for your help to reduce the spread of any contagious virus by following these preventative measures:
Self-assess and stay home (or keep your loved ones home) when sick.
– Properly and frequently wash your hands.
– Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or elbow.
– Avoid touching your mouth and nose as much as possible.
– Avoid close contact with sick individuals.
– Get adequate medical attention.
– Report any known contagious illnesses to Balance Autism.
– Confirm Balance Autism has your most up-to-date contact information so that we can reach  you if urgent situations arise.

If you’re active on social media, please be sure to follow Balance Autism’s Facebook page; we will be posting important updates as new information becomes available. We also have a dedicated page on our website at www.balanceautism.org/COVID-19 and will utilize this platform as a centralized source of communication with our staff and families.

It is important to note Balance Autism does not currently have any cases of COVID-19 in our community and the measures outlined above have been established to provide necessary precautions to reduce or eliminate the spreading of such illness. During any time period of quarantine or infectious disease outbreak, our goal is to maintain the good health of individuals with autism, while also creating a safe workplace for our employees. If you have immediate questions, please contact your program coordinator or clinic supervisor.

For more information onCOVID-19, please visit:
Iowa Department of Public Health
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

We recognize this is a challenging time for everyone, but we believe if we act together as a community, we will minimize the impact of COVID-19 to everyone and especially those who we serve with medical complications that increase their risk. We appreciate your understanding and assistance as we navigate these challenges and do our best to mitigate the negative impact on those we serve.

Sincerely,
Steve Muller, CEO