Latest Message from the CEO

Latest Message from the CEO

Dear LifeLinks CLASS community,

Earlier today Governor Charlie Baker announced that Phase 3 of the Reopening Massachusetts plan, which includes day habilitation and community-based day and employment services, will commence on Monday, July 6. Many of you – including staff, family, and caregivers – have already reached out to me in the hours since the press conference to ask how that impacts LifeLinks CLASS.

While we are very excited to provide these opportunities again for your loved ones, we cannot lift the day program suspension on Monday, July 6. We are still awaiting formal compliance and attestation guidance from EOHS and DDS that we need to meet before we are able to resume day programs.

After convening the COVID-19 Task Force this afternoon, here is what we know:

  • Day program providers must submit a comprehensive re-opening plan in compliance with requirements that have yet to be released by EOHS and DDS
  • Transportation plans that include “infection control strategies and maintenance of physical distancing while transporting participants” must be approved prior to re-opening.
  • Limitations on the number of staff allowed in the facility will impact the type of supports we are able to provide.
  • All day programs will operate at a reduced capacity once they are approved to be open in order to ensure proper social distancing and adherence to infection protocols.

As you can see, there is a lot to do before we are allowed to lift the suspension of day programs at LifeLinks CLASS. The task force has been working on a reopening plan and policies and now must align that plan with the soon-to-be-issued re-opening components from EOHS and DDS. We are pushing forward and will keep you informed of our progress.

But again, because of this, we CANNOT lift the suspension on Monday, July 6.

The guidance we did receive today emphasizes that day providers are encouraged to continue day program services remotely and through alternative, non-group methods when appropriate and feasible. While the task force pursues approval to re-open suspended programs, our incredible staff will continue to provide virtual services and supports in place of our facility- and community-based programs.

As much as we’d love to see you all again, we have to do this right. As I’ve said since we first made the decision to suspend day programs, we cannot re-open facilities until we as an agency can ensure the health and safety of our participants and staff.

Thank you for your patience and understanding, and more to come!

I wish you all a safe and happy Fourth of July! Be well.

LifeLinks CLASS Notes: Supporting Each Other

To the LifeLinks CLASS community,

Like all of you, my world has been turned upside down over these past few weeks in ways I never imagined. One of the absolute best parts of my job are the constant reminders of love and support I get to observe every day across our programs. I can’t wait to get back to that daily occurrence, but for now, we’re all adapting.

Face-to-face interactions that are at the heart of everything we do at LifeLinks CLASS are being replaced by technology where possible. We’re hosting virtual events. Conducting virtual check-ins. Even the COVID-19 daily task force meetings are held virtually.

We know it’s difficult for everyone. In fact, family support center coordinator Eileen Lee recently told her story to the Washington Post – a powerful reminder to the country at large that caregivers in our community are facing difficult choices the likes of which they never imagined. Eileen has always been a fierce advocate for the people we serve. It’s a powerful story that I encourage you all to read and share!

But amidst the ordeal, I want to point out something that fills me with joy! And that’s the dedication of the direct support professionals at LifeLinks CLASS who are working feverishly every day for the people we serve! It truly is an honor and a privilege to be a part of a fiercely dedicated team that makes a difference in the lives of so many – and supports each other in the most challenging times.

I am in awe of the selfless acts of kindness that have become the norm over these past few weeks. Let me share a few examples with you:

  • Day program staff are volunteering to work shifts at our group homes across the region.
  • The residential staff put on a wonderful birthday party for one of our group home residents, filming the festivities to create a memorable family celebration.
  • The finance team, thanks to the herculean efforts of Sasha Ayala, have been able to procure sorely needed PPE for our direct care staff.
  • Day program and clinical staff are sharing virtual activities and sending packets of recommended activities to group homes and to homes of individuals whose day programs are suspended.
  • The award-winning Strive2Thrive program is engaging participants in the creation of a virtual calendar of events that keep mentors connected with their ASD-No ID mentees.
  • Our nurses, under the leadership of Alicia Mordach, have gone above and beyond in providing care for those who need it, where they need it, under challenging circumstances. Including training staff on the proper uses of PPE and assertively monitoring the medical care of all of our individuals for who a doctor’s office visit would pose a risk right now.
  • The facilities team has been keeping the supply chain at group homes uninterrupted and they have even converted space at Omni Way to be used as a quarantine center in case of emergency.
  • The students at Merrimack College who work with us as part of the New Balance Healthy Balance program have stepped up, creating a YouTube channel for participants in the program to stay active and connected.

We’re working very hard to support our staff and to provide them with the resources they need to provide for your loved ones and keep them safe and healthy during this unprecedented moment in time. We are learning and changing how we operate in order to keep everyone safe while maintaining some sense of routine and regularity in order to install confidence and ally fears. It is a challenge, but one we have taken on wholeheartedly.

We will continue to keep you updated and engaged as we manage through this. And let’s continue to do our part to flatten the curve. Follow the CDC guidelines. Practice social distancing. Wash your hands. And know that your LifeLinks CLASS team is here for you. Now, and always.

With best wishes for your health and safety,

Jean M. Phelps, CEO


CEO Jean Phelps Interviewed by Vox

CEO Jean Phelps Interviewed by Vox

CEO Jean Phelps was recently interviewed by Vox in a feature story on the challenges that people with intellectual disabilities are facing during the pandemic.

“In order for a resident of a group home or other residential service to have that full life, they need dedicated, compassionate staff who can support them, guide and mentor them, and help them to achieve the personal goals that each has for their own lives,” said Jean Phelps, CEO of LifeLinks CLASS, an organization that provides support to people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

Before COVID-19, Phelps told me, it was hard enough to recruit staff to help residents, given the low wages and that many people don’t appropriately value the work. With day programs and work opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities shut down during the pandemic, some agencies were having issues maintaining safe staffing levels with residents being at home more often.”

Read the full story here.