April 10 2020 Update on COVID-19 for the Fountain House Community

Posted on April 10, 2020

Fountain House continues to monitor the status of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic so we can share vital information with our community and will continue to do so over the coming weeks and months. We understand that this crisis strikes directly at the heart of our model that is built on social connection, but we have had to make difficult decisions quickly to protect the health and safety of our members, staff, partners and supporters, as well as the wider NYC community.

Important Updates on Fountain House Programs and Services:


  • As of Friday, March 20,  the physical clubhouse was temporarily closed and we have transitioned to supporting members through the virtual clubhouse.

Virtual Clubhouse (Beta)

  • As of Wednesday, March 25, we have launched the virtual clubhouse. Please reference this page to get started or call: 917-727-0762 for more information.
  • Fountain House is using a suite of online tools and services to connect digitally and mimic the physical clubhouse experience. This is known as “Virtual Clubhouse (Beta).”  Over the following weeks, Fountain House will be launching the interactive version of “Virtual Clubhouse 1.0.”, but in the meantime, we encourage you to start testing out our current virtual network of Zoom, Slack and Facebook accounts. 

Changes to meal delivery services

  • Meal deliveries will now transition from daily cooked/prepared/frozen meals to weekly groceries and staples, complete with recipes so members can prepare food at home, as needed.
  • Meal delivery services are open to members in quarantine, those who are symptomatic, or in otherwise vulnerable situations. If you do not fall into these categories but still require assistance, Fountain House will do our best to support or connect you with appropriate services. If you are interested in meal delivery, contact your unit worker or call 212-582-0340.  

Continuing Member Supports 

  • Meds, Money and Mail deliveries can be coordinated through Stephanie Everett or your unit worker. Call 212-582-0340 or go to Slack channel Chat_Bank
  • An overview of Fountain House’s current Telephonic Infrastructure is attached to this letter.
  • The new Warm-line number is 917-795-8309. Calls made to the old warmline number will be forwarded to the new one.Please note that the Warm-line is not available Monday thru Friday between 9am and 5pm. Please call the main line during these times to connect with your unit.
  • The Sunday Tax Preparation at Fountain House will be postponed until June (tentatively). The Community Tax people will extend hours and find more volunteers when they return to complete member taxes. Please note the tax filing date is now July 15, 2020. 
    • Important Info on Stimulus Payments for Individuals on Social Security: If you are a recipient of SSI/SSDI you will not be required to file a “simple” tax return in order to receive stimulus payments under the CARES Act. The payment will be based on your 2018 return, and sent to you via your previously determined preferred method (either check or direct deposit). Upon receiving the payment, please take note of the date of payment and the amount for your records. 
    • In addition to these Fountain House Pink Sheets, Fountain House will be producing accurate and up-to-date information about the virus, and precautions for the Fountain House Community. Info will be distributed in residences, as well as mailed to members. They will be available digitally via Slack, the Fountain House website and social media platforms, the FH Community Facebook group, and as we develop other services. 


Important Info on COVID-19 (Coronavirus) 

Our best line of defense to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 is social distancing and maintaining vigilant hygiene practices.

  • Maintain at least a 6-foot distance between yourself and others outside of your household.
  • Stay at home as much as possible. Minimize contact with people outside of the immediate members of your household, especially when traveling outside for basic needs like food and medicine. Make sure to practice good hygiene before you leave your home, and when you return. If you go out wear a cloth mask or scarf covering your nose and mouth tightly. Wash them regularly with hot water and soap/detergent.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on all sides, or use an alcohol-based (minimum 70% alcohol) hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, cloth or sleeve when sneezing or coughing—do not use your hands.
  • Do not touch your face or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Do not share food, drink or eating utensils with others.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched items and surfaces, such as phones, computers, bathrooms and doorknobs.
  • If you are a smoker, stop using or limit cigarettes and vaping. If you need help quitting, individuals can call the New York State Smokers Quitline at 866-NY-QUITS (866-697-8487).
  • Besides these steps, it is important to maintain healthy eating, exercise, and previously necessary medical support. If you need support accessing food and medications, please contact your worker and we will arrange for assistance. 


If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 or are asked to self-quarantine, there is a guide attached to this letter.


For the most up-to-date resources, information and guidance on the coronavirus epidemic, please consult the following resources:





Lastly, please beware of predatory practices. If strangers come to your door claiming to provide COVID-19 tests, claiming they are from the CDC or any other COVID-19 related services, do not interact with them.  Scammers are also making unsolicited calls to set up testing - this is NOT an official means of setting up testing. Please contact your Doctor or Urgent Care to set up testing.




Ashwin Vasan, M.D., PhD

President and CEO, Fountain House

Assistant Professor, Mailman School of Public Health and Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons at Columbia University


Ralph Aquila, M.D.

Medical Director and Director of the Center for Leadership and Education, Fountain House

Director, HRH/Brightpoint Health Sidney R. Baer Jr. Center


Craig Bayer

Member, Fountain House


Bianca Ortiz

Member, Fountain House


Fountain House Telephonic Infrastructure


Since the temporary closure of the physical clubhouse, Fountain House social practitioners have been reaching out to all members in order to assess their digital literacy skills and access to technology.  Fountain House estimates that more than 50% of its membership lacks the technology and/or skillset to actively participate in its newly developed virtual clubhouse platforms (Facebook, Slack, Zoom).   Three main challenges have emerged:  1) a lack of wi-fi access or computer hardware, 2) low confidence levels when working with computers or technology, 3) an inability or unwillingness to use technology. 


1)      For members who don’t have access to wi-fi or computer hardware, Fountain House was able to purchase and deliver smartphones and tablets so that they could participate in virtual clubhouse platforms. 

2)      For members with low digital literacy skills,  we created a tech support team (reachable by phone/email) where they could speak with someone and/or receive tutorial videos made by tech savvy members and staff.  If need be, the tech support team could also get remote access to their device.

3)      For members with no tech skills, we gave them three additional options for meaningful connection: 

·         Participate in events and meetings using a phone integration software allowing access to digital meetings using standard telephonic devices

·         Become one of the virtual operators

·         Do hands on work for the community

Participate using phone integration software

For standard telephonic access, Fountain House used Sonetel and extended audio by Zoom to allow members to use their regular phones (cell or landlines) to patch into zoom calls easily without use of room ids and passwords.   After verbally identifying virtual meetings of interest, a member’s phone rings and connects them when the meeting begins. The software allows members to hit the # key to signal they would like to add something to the meeting which in turn gives the meeting host the option to unmute them.  If members are using a cell phone, they can get files via text using a word document-to-text software splitter. This allows members who want to participate in the (unit, working group or decision making) meetings to participate as long as they have access to any kind of phone.

Become a virtual operator

Many non tech savvy members enjoy participating in the reception area of the clubhouse. Fountain House created a digital/telephonic virtual switchboard for the clubhouse using Sonetel. Members can volunteer to be operators by taking calls on their own cell phone or landline from a general number.  Someone can call and ask about the daily/weekly schedule of events and meetings, agree on automatic “call me” features and ask questions to a live person. The system allows flexibility to utilize a number of operators without having to divulge their private numbers and without them needing digital skills or equipment. Tech support can then call in to these operators several times a day to get any messages and relay them through the virtual clubhouse platforms to the appropriate recipient. Operators can also perform reach-out calls twice a day to our COVID positive members, assessing their symptoms and needs.  In essence, the switchboard operators become essential in connecting our telephonic members with the digital community.

Doing hands-on work

The last intervention involves members that have no digital skills or interest in speaking on the phone. For this group, we created a number of “hands-on” tasks that were needed by the community. These tasks include mailing out the newsletter, making face masks for the membership and caring for seedlings (hydroponically) that we will use in the spring planting at our farm, etc. Though we bucket these as “hands on”,  not all tasks are physical. We are also utilizing software like Transcribe (speech to text) so analog members can call in and speak their stories for the weekly newsletter or copy-edit other members’ stories. Pickup and delivery of materials are made possible by using the Jack Rabbits delivery system, which also delivers our meals, bank withdrawals and mail.  While on their routes they are delivering mask supplies, seedling kits, materials for mailings, supplies for birthday card construction, etc.

These innovative interventions are crucial for maintaining connection with our non-tech savvy members.  By utilizing a number of software solutions, delivering hardware and materials, we avoid creating two separate communities and find meaningful ways for ALL members to contribute to the virtual clubhouse.


Self-Quarantine Member Support

  • Fountain House is committed to providing much-needed support to members who are quarantined during the COVID-19 outbreak. Fountain House knows that quarantines will be especially difficult for our members.
  • Staff/members will engage in assertive reach-out and have up-to-date information on the COVID-19 protocols for at-risk members. Coordinated by the Units & Silver Center.
  • We will have a virtual community using WebEx during normal programming hours for people to communicate and receive supports. Supported and coordinated by the Media & Technology Center.
  • We will support meal delivery services for members from the Culinary Unit to ensure proper nutrition and to support the quarantine. ERC will coordinate with Jack Rabbit and the Culinary Unit.
  • Members without technological access to WebEx will be able to borrow Cricket phones to access the clubhouse during the period of their quarantine. Coordinated by Media & Technology Center.
  • Reach Out notes on Self Quarantined members will be reviewed by the Program Director to determine if they may return or if there is a need for greater medical intervention and support.
  • Self-quarantined members will have access to greater warm-line services even after hours. This will be coordinated by Residential staff.
  • Self-Quarantined members will also receive a cleaning kit with easy to follow instructions. This will be coordinated by Home & Garden (and delivered via Jack Rabbit).
  • Fountain House will create a Clinical Support Team to provide emergency counseling and prescription medication support for those in Quarantine. This will be coordinated by Dr. Ralph Aquila.

Self-Quarantined members will receive a list of supports available for the duration of their quarantine.



Awards + Recognition

BBB Accredited Charity

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World Health Organization

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