TUPELO • The halls of Regional Rehabilitation Center are a lot emptier since COVID-19 first forced the staff to temporarily close their physical doors, but they have learned to adapt to the new challenges.

The center welcomed clients to return on a limited schedule starting April 27 and it continues offering telehealth as an option for clients.

For now, RRC is separating therapies in order to encourage safety and limit contact between clients. Monday and Wednesday is when they serve speech clients, and they see occupational therapy and physical therapy clients on Tuesday and Thursday.

“It’s been an experience for all of us, just like everyone, but we’re just happy to be able to continue to help and do all we can do,” said executive director Robby Parman.

In the first week, RRC saw about 24 families on scheduled days, but developmental director Bre Moreno said some families are still choosing to continue therapy at home. The three dyslexia therapists continue working from home and serving their clients through teletherapy, and the center will continue holding spots for clients who don’t return.

“Every family has a choice to come or not, (but families that) opted out (are) still getting the therapy they need,” Moreno said.

The dyslexia therapists were among the first to offer teletherapy for their patients starting in March. Speech therapists prepared packets for families to pick up from the RRC on a designated day and work at home. The packets offered enough information until April 20, after which teletherapy was implemented. For families who did not have teletherapy access, the RRC kept contact by phone and made sure they talked to families at least once or twice a week to assess their needs.

RRC assessed opening on a weekly basis, Parman said. Over the last couple of weeks, staff met and had therapists talk to the families they served to see who wanted to come back.

It has been a learning curve, said Parman. Now when clients come in, they require masks be worn in common areas and take the temperatures of all their clients. Their waiting room is closed, so families must wait in their cars during therapy sessions. Each session now ends early to sanitize rooms, and efforts are made to avoid back-to-back sessions to allow proper time to sanitize. Staff wear masks and gloves.

“It’s been different to get used to, but the great thing about it is being able to see families come back, talk to individuals, catch up with what’s been going over the past few weeks and make sure that everyone’s safe in their home,” Parman said.

Since reopening, therapists have been helpful and many families were excited to come back. Moreno noted that many families showed extra appreciation for the new precautions being implemented.

“They don’t mind that their therapy is cut five minutes because they know that the therapist is disinfecting the room,” Moreno said.

The goal is to continue offering limited services over the next few weeks and get back running. RRC will assess at the end of each week what the next steps are based on current information and guidelines.

Parman is thankful for the community’s continual support of RRC.

“Just like all other nonprofits here in North Mississippi or across the country, we’ve had to reschedule all our fundraising for the fall, and people have been very supportive and understanding,” Parman said. “We just appreciate the community for supporting us over 50 years now. It means the world to us.”

danny.mcarthur@journalinc.com

Twitter: @Danny_McArthur_

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