Among those standing on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic every day are those who work to protect and care for the most vulnerable in society: social workers.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services employs 768 social workers who on a daily basis can be involved in in-home assessments for In Home Supportive Services, or IHSS, meal preparation, meal cleanup, dressing, bathing, grooming and oral hygiene.
“Individuals who are aged, blind, and/or disabled and qualify for IHSS depend on IHSS,” said James Bolden, public information officer for the DPSS. “IHSS is an alternative to assisted living or nursing facilities, where the individual may remain safely in their homes.”
These populations, particularly the elderly and immunocompromised, according to public health officials, are the ones who are at the most risk of getting sick due to the virus.
The social workers continue to provide the same level of care and services, but in a different manner and in accordance with Department of Public Health guidelines, Bolden said.
“We are still required to accept new applications for IHSS and to conduct a home visit. However, most of the application interview is now conducted via telephone,” said Bolden, adding that after the initial interview, social workers then go and do the in-home visit. “Social workers are adhering to the Department of Public Health guidelines, including social distancing while in the home.”
When asked if the social workers have enough personal protective equipment, or PPE gear, Bolden said the social workers are attempting to do as much of their contact via telephone to check on their clients’ well-being in order to minimize the face-to-face time.
When asked what the biggest challenge was facing DPSS personnel, Bolden said, “how to perform the services needed in the current environment.”
When asked why social workers continue to put themselves in harm’s way, Bolden said it comes down to compassion.
“DPSS social workers are compassionate and care about their clients,” he said.