How The Center is Fostering Connection Amid Isolation for NYC’s LGBTQ Community
By: Jeffrey Klein, Esq., Chief Operating Officer for The Center
In honor of World Health Day, The Center shares how they’re supporting the mental health and wellbeing of New York City’s LGBTQ+ community amid unprecedented isolation.
The Center, New York’s community center for the LGBTQ community, is open 365 days a year and has over 300,000 visits annually. Since 1983, The Center has offered a wide range of services for New York City’s LGBTQ communities, including advocacy, health, and wellness programs; arts, entertainment and cultural events; and recovery, parenthood, and family support services.
Ending isolation through the power of community is at the core of The Center’s mission. We believe that community is the antidote to isolation, so in the wake of COVID-19, when we had to shut our building’s doors for the sake of public safety, we knew we had to act quickly and find new ways to provide support. The LGBTQ community has often looked to The Center for support, information, and stability in times of crisis, and we knew they would now need us in unprecedented ways.
Reconfigure Operations From Home
Normally, one of the first things people experience when they enter The Center is a greeting from our information and referral team. This team not only makes sure visitors feel welcome, but they’re experts on The Center’s programs and navigating the landscape of New York City services available to the LGBTQ community. Our information and referral team connects individuals to case managers, social workers, and the services they need right when they need them. While we currently can’t meet with our community in-person, our information and referral team is now staffing virtual front desks from their homes to help anyone in need of support.
At The Center, we provide a wide array of crucial services, including HIV testing, a youth program, mental health counseling, and an outpatient substance use treatment program, to name just a few. The need for social distancing means our social workers and other front-line staff had to find a new way to support our community, many of whom are feeling an increased sense of isolation during this time.
Easily Accessible Case Management Records Means Better Support
Having our case management system housed in Salesforce means that our client records are secure and accessible regardless of where our staff is located. Previously, access was limited to The Center’s physical IP address, meaning accessibility outside of our building was nearly impossible. Now, our clinicians are able to see records, track interactions, and enter notes from home, all while maintaining client confidentiality. This is critical to allow our team to continue their impactful work by checking in on clients, ensuring their wellbeing, and promoting connection during mandated isolation.
Connect with Clients on Their Terms
While phone check-ins work for many, we’re sensitive to the fact that connecting on the phone isn’t an option that works for everyone. Young people aren’t in school and may not be out to their parents, guardians, or caregivers. With the complexities of voluntary quarantines, such as round-the-clock sharing of living spaces, we needed to provide an option that is more private than a telephone discussion.
After a labor-intensive two week sprint, we are launching a chat support option on our website this week, allowing us another avenue to communicate directly with clients in real time with an added layer of privacy. Additionally, we are implementing a new way to allow more seamless, direct engagement with followers on social media. This provides us yet another vehicle to connect with our clients by increasing our reach to those who need a sense of community, no matter what platform they feel most comfortable on.
Staying Connected in a Time of Isolation
For over 37 years, The Center has fostered a welcoming environment where everyone is celebrated for who they are. Despite the need to be socially distant right now, we’re utilizing the power of technology to connect in many ways including providing crucial health and wellness services and COVID-19 resources. We continue our life-saving work by fulfilling our mission and creating a strong, united LGBTQ community when it matters most.
To learn more about furthering your mission and keeping up with case management during the COVID-19 outbreak, please register for our April 14th case management webinar HERE.
About the Author
Jeffrey Klein, Esq.
Chief Operating Officer
Jeffrey is the Chief Operating Officer of The LGBT Community Center. In this role he oversees operations, legal, strategic planning, technology & data systems, private & public fundraising and program evaluation. Jeff is also an Adjunct Professor at Pratt Institute and previously taught at Columbia University. His courses include Fundraising, Nonprofit Law and Intellectual Property Law. Previously, he has served as the Vice President of Programs & Services for Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic). While there, he was the functional head and chief strategist for program design, account implementation and customer support. He also has served as a staff attorney and fundraiser for Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts specializing in counseling nonprofit organizations on their legal and business issues. Jeff is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law and is admitted to the New York State Bar. Additionally he holds a BA from Skidmore College.
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