Letter to HR360 management from SEIU 1021 Members
CLICK HERE TO SIGN OUR PETITION CALLING FOR A HYBRID WORK MODEL.
To HR360 management,
Please take the time to read this letter, which conveys the points covered in the meeting our members held on April 6th. We were incredibly disappointed that both you and Nilab chose to miss this meaningful discourse.
We would first like to state that we have been making efforts for months to engage in a mutual dialogue aimed at creating and maintaining an equitable treatment and work environment for clients and staff alike within the OP programs. We would like to reiterate that our ask has never been to eliminate face-to-face contact with our clients and that OP has been successfully delivering treatment throughout the course of the pandemic via both in-person and telehealth services. As stated in DHCS’s Covid guidance, “telehealth is not a distinct service, but an allowable mechanism to provide clinical services. The standard of care is the same whether the patient is seen in-person, by telephone, or through telehealth.” Telehealth is a client-facing service.
In programs where telehealth is available, it continues to represent equitable care for many clients and equitable work for many staff, regardless of pandemic conditions. We will provide specifics around this during subsequent meetings, just as we did on April 6th. As we continue to meet with our supervisors and teammates by Zoom and Teams and offer clients services via telehealth–as permitted by the state–it is difficult to understand the reasoning behind mandating clinicians to be on-site 5 days per week. During the meeting on April 6th, we heard no legitimate arguments and were presented with unsupported productivity statistics without any evidence of causation and no acknowledgement that fewer staff is inherently related to fewer clients served. The fact remains that the infrastructure to support remote work exists and has been in use since the start of the pandemic.
We firmly believe that staff care is client care. We are continuing to ask for support from the organization to give staff the option of a fully hybrid work model for programs that have this capacity. This would best honor staff and client covid risk tolerance levels as we continue to serve clients and case rates continue to fluctuate. Additionally, while regular remote work was permitted, staff working from home reported experiencing an overall improvement in mental health symptoms, which translates into improved client care. We thank you for offering 1 remote day per week. However, we would like to know more about your decision and what metrics you will be utilizing to conduct a review around it. Without transparency and ongoing communication, this was not a discussion. Because of this, we maintain our initial ask of 3-4 days per week remote.
The pandemic has taught us to pay more attention to our mental health needs and we are continuing to ask for your support. Working from the office 5 days per week is not necessary in the OP programs at present/given the present state of the ongoing pandemic, and asking staff to work outside their exposure tolerance will contribute further to ongoing staff burnout. Organizations historically maintain higher levels of success - and a better bottom line – when they retain a workforce that feels fulfilled and energized by their mission.That takes work from all sides. As counselors and clinicians, we work to empower our clients with the understanding that self-advocacy is a form of self-care. We are doing our work and advocating for the creation of a work culture where more people feel valued and want to put down career roots. In that vein, we are bringing a few additional asks to your attention – all of which were also discussed in our April 6th meeting – which we will speak to in further detail shortly.
Our field is continuing to shift toward online engagement. We are still hopeful that HR360 can be at the progressive forefront of this movement, continuing to offer these services for as long as the state allows, coming away with an ability to lobby for a permanent allowance for telehealth options for our clients who can, want, and need to access care in this manner. We continue to hear from our current clients that many will have to abandon treatment if required to present in person. Please bear in mind, again, that we are not suggesting that we deny clients in-person care. Clients who are experiencing homelessness or do not have access to communication to allow for telehealth are, according to the ASAM dimension assessment, better suited for residential treatment. For those who are not, yet again we want to document that we are not suggesting denial of care. Going further, we would like to see any evidence of such denials.There are clinicians willing to conduct – and who have been conducting - in-person services, and there are some who are not ready. The same can be said for clients. We are asking for flexibility for both clients and staff.
In aiding clients practicing harm reduction, our organization understands that all-or-nothing approaches are often unhelpful or even harmful and we hope the same understanding can be extended towards staff care. What seems to be lacking is the understanding that self-care is not always possible when it is not supported by an employer’s willingness to meet people halfway.
Please see below for the hybrid model proposal, including the potential benefits for staff, clients, and HR360 as a whole. During our meeting, we were advised that upper management has been working toward creation of staff retention tools. Again, there was unfortunately a complete lack of transparency. A hybrid model for OP is a ready-made staff retention tool we are offering. This is not a future conversation. This is urgent and talks are happening now.
Lastly, we would like to highlight that the greatest barrier to comprehensive client care is an understaffed and underserved provider base. With the expressed intent of best serving clients, we ask that HR360 consider more fully the impact of high attrition rates as well as the importance of staff retention. Coming back to the communal experience of the pandemic – we want to work together to take what we’ve learned and apply it for the future success of HR360 and everyone it has yet to support/serve.
HYBRID MODEL PROPOSAL:
A hybrid model would:
- Include the option for 3-4 days per week remote
- Be based on necessity and client engagement in in-person services
- Include rolling schedules for people working in shared office space
The potential benefits of a hybrid work model would include:
- Office-share potential to reduce office space and overhead costs
- Decreased rates of anxiety among staff/increase in general quality of life
- Continued flexibility for clients, which equates to equitable
- Muni lines still not in operation, limiting access
- Clients with full-time jobs
- Clients with scheduling limitations involving childcare and/or other mandated sessions
- Clients who are not comfortable presenting in person due to potential pandemic risk
- An increased sense of physical safety for both clients and staff
It’s important to us to provide equitable care and have an equitable workplace that provides logistical means for staff to truly engage in self-care and have a safe work environment. There have been a number of safety incidents at OP sites – including firearm-involved incidents. While we understand we cannot make the world a safe place at all times, we feel it to be the responsibility of our workplace to mitigate risk for clients and staff wherever possible.
ADDITIONAL ASKS AROUND CREATION OF CULTURE IN WHICH STAFF FEELS CARED FOR AND VALUED
- Retroactive PTO for individuals who contracted covid or had to care for a covid-positive family member in the period between state-mandated PTO for family care involving covid or positive staff test
- PTO beyond the 2 weeks of state-mandated minimum around covid specific PTO – we may never use it, but having it available would go a long way in boosting staff morale
- Clearly defined practices and protocols across all programs for face to face meetings and client services
We continue to hope for an open and honest discussion around this mandate with the understanding that we are all on the same page in our desire to continue to provide client care.