Sustaining Services During COVID-19

Updated 5/4/2020

New York State is among those most affected by COVID-19. In response to this quickly evolving situation, we will be posting regular updates and information onto this page as soon as it becomes available.

Our staff is available over email and via web conferencing to serve your needs. To request assistance, email the relevant staff member listed below.

Contact your state and local health departments to confirm channels of communication and methods for dissemination of local outbreak information. Locate your county health office here.

Let us know if there is other information we can look into that would be useful to you.

Take care of yourselves and each other.

In solidarity,

NYSCASA Staff

News

Information About COVID-19

We encourage all programs to follow simple and effective guidelines from the CDC to reduce the spread of potential respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

Multilingual Resources

FAQs for Survivors

Is support still available?

Yes! You are not alone and support remains available to you.

  • The New York State Hotline for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault is 24/7, confidential, and free: 1-800-942-9606
  • Your local rape crisis program’s hotline is 24/7, confidential, and free: Find your local rape crisis program.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 24/7, confidential, and free: 1-800-799-7233 and through chat.
  • The National Sexual Assault Hotline is 24/7, confidential, and free: 800.656.HOPE (4673) and through chat.
  • The StrongHearts Native Helpline for domestic/sexual violence is available 7am-10pm CT, confidential, and specifically for Native communities: 1−844-762-8483
  • The Stop It Now Helpline is available for individuals concerned for the safety of a child and/or worried about their own thoughts and behaviors: 1-888-PREVENT
  • The Trans LifeLine for peer support for trans folks 9am-3am CT: 1-877-565-8860 This hotline is staffed exclusively by trans operators is the only crisis line with a policy against non-consensual active rescue.
  • The Deaf Hotline is available 24/7 through video phone (1-855-812-1001), email and chat for Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled survivors.
  • National Parent Helpline Monday -Friday 12pm-9am CT emotional support and advocacy for parents: 1-855-2736
  • If you are experiencing heightened stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 public health crisis, call the New York State Office of Mental Health Emotional Support Helpline: 1-844-863-9314
  • Crime Victims Legal Help NY Resources

I've been sexually assaulted. Can I still go to the hospital?

Yes! Medical care following sexual violence is a medical emergency and not an elective procedure. During COVID-19, you are still entitled to speak with an advocate. If an advocate is not able to provide an in-person hospital response, you are entitled to speak with an advocate by phone in a private location that protects your privacy.

If you have questions, you can always call the New York State Hotline for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (1-800-942-9606) or contact your local rape crisis program.

FAQs for Service Providers

Webinars and Peer Support Calls

Information for Grantees

What guidance are our funders providing?

US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women:

  • Until further notice, OVW is suspending requirements for grant recipients to seek prior approval and to process Grant Adjustment Notices (GAN) in relation to items that would normally require approval and/or a GAN. Grantees should maintain a copy of this guidance with any other appropriate records and cost documentation.
  • OVW will allow recipients that incur costs related to the cancellation of events, travel, or other activities necessary for the performance of the award (such as the costs of providing telework equipment to employees working on the grant) or the pausing and restarting of grant-funded activities due to the public health emergency, to charge these costs to the grant. OVW will allow recipients to charge full cost of cancellation when the event, travel, or other activities are conducted under the auspices of the grant.
  • OVW will allow recipients to continue to charge salaries and benefits to their awards consistent with the award recipients’ policy of paying salaries and benefits under unexpected or extraordinary circumstances from all funding sources. Benefits may include the costs of leave as long as they are provided under written leave policies. OVW encourages award recipients to review and update their written leave policies to address “unexpected or extraordinary circumstances.”
  • Most OVW awards may be eligible for no-cost extensions. See the DOJ Grants Financial Guide and contact your grant administrator/program specialist as needed.
  • Recipients needing additional time to complete closeout requirements should contact their grant administrator/program specialist before the closeout deadline to request prior approval of an extension.
  • For grantees unable to meet original due dates for financial reporting, OVW is allowing delayed submission of up to 60 days for Federal Financial Reports for the reporting period January 1 – March 31, 2020. OVW is also allowing delayed submission of up to 60 days for progress reports due March 30, 2020 (the new due date is May 29).
  • For OVW-sponsored conferences, meetings, trainings, and other gatherings that are scheduled in the near term, recipients should work with their OVW program specialists to set up meetings as virtual events or postpone or cancel meetings.
  • The Grant Payment Request System (GPRS) will remain in service to accept and process grant payment requests.

 

New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services:

  • The DCJS Grants Management System (GMS) will remain in service; grantees can continue to work with DCJS to develop contracts and submit progress reports.
  • Grantee vouchers may only be submitted by email (dcjsGrantsUnitVoucherSubmittal@dcjs.ny.gov) or paper mail (NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services, Finance/Grants Unit, Alfred E. Smith State Office Building 10th Floor, 80 South Swan Street, Albany, NY 12210). At this time DCJS will not be accepting any vouchers submitted through Grants Gateway. (Read more.)
  • The DCJS GMS Helpdesk is available 9-5 Monday through Friday via phone (518-457-9787) or email (funding@dcjs.ny.gov)
  • The NYS Grants Gateway Helpdesk is available 8-4 Monday through Friday by phone (518-474-5595) or email (grantsgateway@its.ny.gov)

 

New York State Office of Victim Services:

  • OVS will continue processing emergency awards and reimbursing your program, even if services are temporarily reduced, provided that your organization has appropriate policies in place. Upload written leave and remote work policies to the grantee document folder in the Grants Gateway or submit by email to your contract management specialist.
  • For any expenses incurred due to cancellation of trainings/conferences, OVS will reimburse as they normally would, unless the program received a credit or was refunded for those costs.
  • OVS strongly encourages all programs to file claims through the portal, which allows for faster processing. Staff will still be able to process electronic submissions so that victims’ claims will not be affected.
  • If your program is going to be significantly reduced or closed because of the health emergency, you must let your contract management specialist know immediately.

Where can I get information about remote work and paid leave?

NYSCASA is encouraging staff and colleagues to conduct business remotely whenever possible. We strongly advise programs to review and update your existing human resources policies to ensure they address telework, remote work, and/or administrative leave.

 

Can grant funds be used to pay staff if they are teleworking?

Staff may be paid with grant funds while teleworking if your organization has an established policy in place allowing staff to telework or work remotely. (US DOJ/OVW)

 

Can we use grant funds to pay staff if they take leave?

Programs should continue to use their current leave policies and pay staff accordingly. (US DOJ/OVW)

 

Can grant funds be used to pay staff if they are unable to telework because of the kind of work they normally perform?

Organizations should consider other related work that could be performed remotely, such as program planning, professional development and remote training opportunities, catching up on administrative work, internal capacity building, performance reviews, etc. (US DOJ/OVW)

 

Can grant funds be used to pay staff who are on administrative leave?

Staff may be paid with grant funds while on administrative leave if your organization has an established policy administrative leave policy in place. We recommend that you establish a policy addressing administrative leave, including administrative leave in the case of unexpected or extraordinary circumstances. (US DOJ/OVW)

 

What are some tips for operating as a remote workplace during COVID-19?

The National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Safety Net project has some tips:

  • Consider what services can be done remotely with web chat, video calls, or phone calls.
  • Use tools that allow staff and advocates to work from home. This includes tools that allow staff and volunteers to communicate with each other (e.g. calls, instant messaging, video chat), and tools for sharing information while maintaining confidentiality (e.g. secure file sharing).
  • Here is a list of tools that programs might consider for communicating with survivors remotely that meet current best practice standards: https://www.techsafety.org/remote-work-public-health-crisis
  • We recommend offering program-owned devices and accounts, which allows for better staff management across shifts and can increase privacy and safety. The US DOJ/OVW will allow grantees to charge costs of providing telework equipment to employees working on the grant to their OVW grant.
  • Remember that survivor safety and privacy is important. Consider best practices for mobile advocacy to ensure that we can protect survivor safety and privacy.

 

Is there guidance around HIPAA and confidentiality?

The US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights announced that health care providers will not be subject to penalties for violations of the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules that occur in the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.

 

Keep in mind that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) contain strong confidentiality provisions. These provisions apply to all grantees and subgrantees funded by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA). Most rape crisis programs receive VAWA and FVPSA funding through Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) grants and must continue to adhere to these provisions.

 

Resources:

Where can I get information about hospital accompaniment?

Hospital accompaniment has been a source of confusion and concern. Medical care following sexual violence is to be considered a medical emergency and not an elective procedure.

At this time, please use your best judgment when determining if folks should provide in-person accompaniment services to individuals. If an advocate has a cold, history of respiratory illness, compromised immune system, or other health issues, they may not be the best candidate for providing accompaniment to the hospital.

Programs are encouraged to connect with their Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) members to ensure coordination of services.  Some information to discuss with SART members:

  • Is the hospital restricting access to “non-essential” visitors, and what does that mean for advocates responding to the hospital?
  • Has the advocacy program modified their services in anyway (e.g. telephone services only?)
  • If an advocate is unable to provide in-person hospital response, coordinate with the advocate about how they might be available to the survivor by phone.
  • If a survivor has an opportunity to speak with an advocate by phone, please ensure the survivor is able to talk with the advocate in a private location at the hospital that promotes confidentiality.

Programs should take guidance directly from local health officials. Programs may need to advocate on behalf of survivors that medical care following sexual violence is to be considered a medical emergency and not an elective procedure.  We all must be creative and flexible so that access to patient care is not compromised or delayed.

Some resources that may be helpful:

Where can I get information about tele-advocacy?

Having 24/7 confidential support available by phone is one of the easiest ways programs can offer continuing support to their communities without exposing anyone to possible infection. In times of crisis, survivors may be triggered by the sense of helplessness and powerlessness around the situation they feel. We also know that rates of sexual assault tend to increase in times of disaster. The Resource Sharing Project assembled a useful guide for running support lines and talks about why marketing your crisis line as a helpline may broaden who feels comfortable calling for help.  You can access the helpline publication at: http://www.resourcesharingproject.org/helplines

Some programs have used a telecounseling model as a way to enhance accessibility. This may be a good alternative to providing in-person services.

The following is a list of tools that programs might consider for communicating with survivors remotely that we think meet current best practice standards. Two key factors to consider in any tool are 1) encryption options where the tech company itself cannot see the content of the files because they do not hold the encryption key – only you do, and 2) user access options that allow you to control user-by-user access to the content. While we do not endorse these tools, they are well-suited to protect privacy as they are currently set up.

We share this list in an effort to reduce the privacy risks that go along with rushing to adopt tools quickly without time for more thorough evaluation.

Here are some customizable teleadvocacy forms and resources your program can utilize when working with survivors:

  • TeleAdvocacy Informed Consent Form > click here
  • TeleCounseling Informed Consent Form > click here
  • TeleAdvocacy/TeleCounseling Informed Consent Talking Points > click here

Here are some resources from the National Network to End Domestic Violence:

  • Digital Services Toolkit > click here
  • How to Operate as a Remote Workplace During a Public Health Crisis > click here
  • Best Practices When Using Email > click here
  • Using Mobile Phones to Communicate with Survivors: Best Practices & Policy Recommendations > click here

Additional resources:

Where can I get information about in-person advocacy protocols?

For programs that are still able to offer in-person services, it is important to proactively communicate what the program is doing to keep people safe and what expectations the program has of survivors in helping meet that goal.

A sample client letter is available for download below.

Coalitions and programs can find multilingual resource sheets explaining COVID-19, including a poster on how to stop the spread of germs, here.

SAMPLE CLIENT LETTER.docx

How can programs support the well-being and health of staff and volunteers?

It is critical that programs implement policies that permit remote work, telework, and paid leave to enable staff and volunteers to maintain program operations and allow volunteers and staff to work remotely and with flexibility.

If staff and volunteers are unable to perform their typical work remotely, programs should consider other related work, such as professional development and remote training opportunities that include a focus on community care and self-care. NYSCASA’s interpretation of guidance from funders suggests that such professional development and training opportunities can be charged to grants.

It’s also important to remember that we are experiencing a worldwide, ongoing, collective trauma, and it’s okay not to be okay. Remind staff and volunteers that it’s okay to work at a slower pace. It’s okay to take a step back and breathe.

Resources:

Request Assistance

Our staff is available over email and via web conferencing to serve your needs. We will continue to work regular office hours, 9am-5pm Monday through Friday. We are prioritizing email contact. Our phone voicemail will be forwarded to staff remotely.

If you are a victim or survivor and are looking for 24/7 free and confidential support, call the state helpline: 1-800-942-6906.

NYSCASA staff can be reached by email: