Jordan and Mary Claire Houses Face New Normal

Jordan and Mary Claire Houses are a part of SOME’s mental health care continuum. These programs serve as a community alternative to psychiatric hospitalization. Jordan House offers a residential psychiatric crisis stabilization program for adults in Washington, DC; Mary Claire is a six-month extended program for those who, upon discharge from Jordan House, would be vulnerable to cycling through crisis again because of severe or persistent mental illness exacerbated by chronic homelessness. Caring staff are on-site 24 hours a day and cultivate a safe, stable, home-like environment. Counselors complete a comprehensive assessment of each incoming client and follow-up with intensive counseling to rapidly stabilize psychiatric symptoms. Residents are encouraged to live with increasing independence and accountability.            

During the COVID-19 crisis, almost all of SOME’s core services remained in operation. Due to the special nature of the Jordan and Mary Claire House programs, the staff was required to make special modifications. The clients these programs serve require access to staff 24 hours a day to address their mental health needs and access their medication. Many of the outside providers these clients rely on for mental and physical health services have limited hours during the stay-at-home order, requiring even more care from SOME staff.

Many of the clients that Jordan and Mary Claire House serve experience homelessness or have had their housing compromised during this time period. It has caused an increase in anxiety for many clients as the city’s shelters continue to be hotspots for infection and people are concerned about where they will have to go should they become ill.

“The reality is though this type of work is very hard to do at a distance,” said Elizabeth Horrigan, Program Manager for Behavioral Health at SOME. “It’s hard to build trust with someone who is experiencing a psychiatric crisis with a mask on and six feet away. It’s hard to support clients with understanding how to socially distance when they have symptoms of mania and have no insight into personal space.”

Jordan and Mary Claire House added additional staffing and programming to keep residents busy and active in a positive manner while in the home setting. The isolation many of us experienced during the stay-at-home order was amplified for our clients. The residents were not able to go out into the community unless it was for essential needs and accompanied by a staff member. In addition, alumni are an important component of these programs as many former clients would regularly visit to provide peer support, especially on holidays like Memorial Day when many of our clients don't have contact with family. This feature has been suspended to limit exposures and the number of people in the house, removing a crucial support line.

“COVID-19 has changed the way I work,” said Dyral Brown, Service Coordinator at Mary Claire House. “We have provided additional education surrounding the virus and ways for our residents to remain safe and being mindful when out in the community setting.” Residents were also provided with PPE and disinfecting products, and strict screening protocols were put in place to attempt to identify anyone with symptoms.

The challenges faced by the clients in residence at Jordan and Mary Claire House highlight how incredibly vulnerable the people we serve are during coronavirus. If you would like to thank our incredible staff at Jordan and Mary Claire House for their dedication, you can leave them a message of support here:

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