The first COVID-19 case was diagnosed in the United States on January 20 and by March, the pandemic had spread across the country, including to Massachusetts. Fenway Health was quick to respond, moving the majority of our work force offsite and expanding our telehealth program to help protect our staff and patients from COVID-19 transmission while ensuring our community continued to have access to high quality health care. We also implemented social distancing and masking policies for all staff and visitors at Fenway Health locations and stepped up our pharmacy deliveries, allowing patients and clients to keep up with their prescriptions without needing to make an extra trip outside their homes.
Fenway’s Behavioral Health Department quickly transitioned to virtual visits and our support groups, including trans health and groups for the broader LGBTQIA+ community, successfully moved to Zoom, allowing folks to continue to receive critical care for their emotional and mental well-being. Our Behavioral Health Department also implemented virtual drop-in hours allowing low barrier, no appointment required access to psychotherapy five days a week for clients who have a hard time keeping appointments, including those in our Medication Assisted Treatment program.
LGBTQIA+ seniors are more likely to live alone and be at risk of social isolation than other older adults. To help address this, volunteers make calls to Fenway’s LGBT Aging Project’s database, offering help with immediate needs like grocery store runs, prescription pickups, and dropping off face masks. Even more importantly, these calls provide seniors with a much needed human connection.
Our Access Drug User Health Program was forced to shut down its drop-in centers in Cambridge and Jamaica Plain in response to the pandemic. In order to ensure that our clients continued to receive the care and services they rely on to stay healthy and safe, the Access team moved to a mobile outreach model, heading out on foot, bike, and by van to meet clients where they are at in the community.
The health delivery innovations we’ve put in place, such as telehealth, are removing barriers to care in ways that will matter for years to come For example, we now offer services to LGBTQIA+ people in 20 other states who are unable to find quality care that is culturally competent in their local communities.