In the face of adversity, opportunities and silver linings exist.
This time of COVID-19 has brought unforeseen challenges along with new possibilities. During this pandemic and “shelter in place,” people’s health and social needs did not go away. If anything, they increased, and our medical system is not equipped to handle all these needs at once.
Schurig Center for Brain Injury Recovery embraced the challenge (and the opportunity presented) to use technology to help their clients connect and recover.
When COVID-19 struck, things were humming along at Schurig Center. This local social service organization was anticipating its annual fundraising gala and working to improve its therapies and programs. But then the pandemic hit, and clients and Schurig Center staff were forced to stay home. So the Schurig Center team got to work figuring out how to meet the needs of this very vulnerable population.
Imagine surviving a stroke or other traumatic brain injury and having to relearn basics like reading, speaking or walking. Accepting the loss of your previous life, and the challenge of rebuilding a new life would be difficult. Facing this daunting challenge by yourself would be nearly impossible. That is why Schurig Center for Brain Injury Recovery exists. But because of SIP, the doors were closed to clients. In fact many medical and social service offices were closed. And computers, phones and applications can be confusing to a person with a brain injury! Depression, loneliness and a loss of motivation could set in. But Schurig Center understood the situation and took action.
Schurig Center staff immediately began outreach, surveying needs of clients and caregivers. They developed virtual therapeutic classes, support groups and even personal visits and delivery of supplies. The team spent hours teaching survivors and families how to connect online and access Zoom. They were able to meet the needs of clients and provide engaging, uplifting and therapeutic services remotely. The sense of community was restored to those who were feeling isolated, and materials and technology were delivered or made understandable so everyone could participate. Many would not have had any contact with the outside world without Schurig Center. Existing clients enrolled, but so did new clients and former clients who had lost other means of therapy and connection. By providing an expansive online program, Schurig Center actually increased the number of people served this year over the previous year.
Speech therapy, communication classes, support groups, and even art therapy went virtual, with a rich variety of individual and group projects. Virtual field trips, online one-on-one sessions, and in-person deliveries and visits continue to happen. And clients are enthusiastic about the offerings. While many miss the in-person comradery, there are those who are pleased to not have to commute long distances to the center. And participating from home can be less physically taxing to those with physical challenges.
Schurig Center was the only means of reaching some of these at-risk community members. Community generosity during this potentially dire time was a big help to the organization. Donations and local grants went toward laptops and software. Technology was adopted by an under-served group who had not previously used it. And Schurig Center staff helped clients discover a rich online experience. Schurig Center for Brain Injury Recovery has long been the only Bay Area organization offering specially-designed therapeutic programs and services for people who have suffered a brain injury, and services for their family and caregivers. And even when remote, clients say it is truly life-saving to have this meaningful connection and ability to continue their recovery.
These are challenging times for us all and if we embrace the opportunities presented, innovate where we can, we can change lives together.
Kimberly Strub, of Mill Valley, is board of directors president for the Schurig Center for Brain Injury Recovery. Get more information at SchurigCenter.org and ConcussionSmartMarin.org.