COVID-19 Silver Linings

Meet Tom Morris, Director of Residential Support Programs

Q:  What have been your most significant challenges for the past few months?

We were committed to keeping all the residential programs open, but maintaining enough staff to keep the programs open was an incredible challenge. On March 16, all outside day programs that our residents usually attended were closed, which immediately required us to find additional staff to fill the 9:00am-3:00pm gap five days a week.

Q: What was the plan to keep residents and staff safe and the plan for if/when a resident or staff person became ill?

I was so thankful for the leadership of Dr. Mike Tang, our Chief Behavioral Health Officer, at this time. Mike helped us put in place various processes to combat the spread of COVID-19 such as social distancing, isolation, cleaning and disinfecting and temperature and symptoms checks of both residents and staff members. He also arranged for residents who tested positive to be moved to another building on the Dimock campus, the Z Building, to provide a place to stay and recover or for those who needed to quarantine while awaiting test results.

Q: How many residents and staff were impacted by the virus?

Department of Developmental Services (DDS) programs across the state have been profoundly affected by COVID-19, including our group homes. Out of 24 residents, seven became ill and nine of our staff members also became ill from the virus.  Fortunately, as of now, none of the residents under Dimock’s care have died from COVID-19.  On April 7, the first of the seven became ill. From that point on, we had residents and staff moving in and out of the residential homes to the Z Building to be quarantined. Three of the residents required hospitalization.  We were fortunate to work closely with Dimock’s Health Center to ensure proactive testing of all clients and staff, even those without symptoms, which helped us identify cases early and minimize the spread.  The Dimock Health Center team even went to many of the houses to do on-site testing!

Q: What was this crisis like for you and your staff?

I’ve never worked so hard in my life! It was a very emotional time for all of us. There are many heroes in this story: the staff members who worked long hours; other staff members working similar hours covering for staff who were sick; staff who recovered from the virus and gladly returned to work with their residents, who are more like family members than clients; the residents who continue to isolate themselves in their rooms to protect themselves and others; and the family member who had to support their loved ones from a distance.


Meet Hilda Bastien, Program Manager

Hilda is the Manager of the Sycamore Street residential home. She was one of the staff who contracted the coronavirus and was ill for five weeks. We are so glad that she is now well and back at Sycamore. 

Q: Tell us about Sycamore resident John and his journey during the pandemic.

On April 7th, John became ill and was moved to the Z Building. The medical Director of the Z Building became concerned about his condition and consulted with John’s doctor who advised that he be sent to the Faulkner Hospital emergency room where he tested positive for COVID-19 and was immediately admitted.

John became critically ill. I tried to contact John’s Uncle to tell him the news but learned he had returned home to Trinidad. I searched on social media and was able to reach him. He informed me that John also had an Aunt nearby to Boston! We had no idea the Aunt existed. I contacted the Aunt and she was eager to learn about John. They had lost touch many years ago.

Q: Did John recover and return to Sycamore?

Fortunately, after more than one month in the hospital, John recovered and was able to return home. The day he came home the Sycamore staff were on the sidewalk waiting to greet him. The car pulled up, John got out and started dancing in the street and was greeted with applause from the staff! John loves to dance and will dance anywhere, anytime!

Q: What was the surprise discovery after John returned home?

We were shocked that when John came home he started talking to everyone! He said “hello” to each person and asked how they were doing! And then he kept on talking, and talking.  Prior to his illness John was almost non-verbal!  He speaks a lot now!

And now John has his Aunt back in his life. We were pleased to find that he did remember her from many years ago and that now she is in regular contact with him.

Meet Tammy L., Proud Mother of 3

Tammy’s family has been part of the Dimock family for many years. All of Tammy’s three school-age children, who are 11, 8, and 3, have thrived in early education programs at Dimock. Her youngest is currently in Dimock’s Early Head Start program. Like many families, when schools shut in March, the children’s access to healthy breakfasts and lunches ended, too. The Dimock Center’s early education programs (Early Head Start, Head Start and Foundations for Learning) serve more than 350 low-income young children and their families each day, with Head Start families’ incomes well below the federal poverty level ($25,100 for a family of four).

As a single mother, Tammy has had to cope with the enormous stresses of having to figure out how to feed her family, while also protecting her children from the coronavirus. All three of her children have respiratory issues, making them more vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19.

“Working full-time, having three kids with respiratory problems, and seeing how COVID-19 has directly impacted people’s lives, especially our elderly community, has been really overwhelming for me and for my family. I worry every day about the continued health of my family and the health of our community.”

When Tammy learned from her Head Start Family Service Worker about Dimock’s emergency meals program, she was relieved and very happy to participate. While the healthy, nutritious food they received helped the family financially, Tammy also found the interactions with staff to be a great source of emotional support during this time of social distancing and isolation.

“Every time I visit the meal distribution program, the staff are always warm and welcoming. Knowing that my children are able to receive these essential meals at home has really taken a huge burden off of me. There are times when I couldn’t make it and Dimock’s staff went out of their way to bring the meals to me. It’s been nothing but love when I come there, and it’s always been like that at Dimock.”

“I now feel as though Dimock is like a second family to me. They have really helped me get through this tough time, and I no longer feel uncomfortable asking for help if I ever need anything. It has given me hope that I can depend on Dimock and my community for support when I need it most.”


In April 2019, Jordan knew that he needed to make a change in his life by seeking mental health support. He decided to talk with his primary care doctor at The Dimock Center about possible steps that he could take to overcome his battle with depression. A resident of Jamaica Plain who had been receiving care at Dimock for several years, Jordan knew that Dimock was the right place for him to begin this new chapter in his life.

As an African-American male who grew up in a religiously observant environment, Jordan was always told that he didn’t need professional help for his feelings of anxiety and depression, and never felt supported in his decision to seek further help. Although he was brought up this way, Jordan knew deep down that these feelings were not normal and that he needed to seek therapy to live a healthier life.

Jordan now regularly meets with his Dimock Behavioral Health Therapist, Jackie Fickes, LCSW, and has seen significant improvement in his overall mood and way of life. He is particularly grateful for Jackie’s tremendous support in helping him overcome the challenges that he has faced. “Jackie is very attentive and does a really good job of following up, even on small things, and challenges me to think,” Jordan shared. “I have a tendency to put myself down and not be in a place where I can talk. She’s helped me to really pull out of that, which is amazing.”

The praise has been reciprocated by Jackie, who says that Jordan is “one of the most valued people I have encountered and he really holds himself accountable. He pushes himself to grow and is very collaborative in his treatment by looking at things from different angles and working hard to grow.”

Although Behavioral Healthcare at Dimock has shifted from in-person visits to telehealth, staff and patients like Jackie and Jordan have remained dedicated to their work together and are finding creative ways to navigate through this pandemic time. Jackie notes that “a significant part of therapy is sharing a physical space with someone. Having, and having a designated space where it is safe to share and talk through things virtually, may not always be available for all patients. We help patients think about safe places at home or elsewhere, for them to be while undergoing therapy via phone. And we empower patients, and making them feel empowered to let us know when they are uncomfortable or need to reschedule for another time.”

Although this adjustment has been a little strange and often difficult, Jordan has remained optimistic. He appreciates how “even during COVID-19, I still have the ability to talk and continue on the plan that I have. I don’t have to navigate this alone.”

“Even during COVID-19, I still have the ability to talk and continue on the plan that I have. I don’t have to navigate this alone.”


During this incredibly difficult and uncertain time, Jackie states the importance of continued Behavioral Healthcare and its significance within our communities. “It is vital due to the heightened feelings of anxiety, depression, lack of control, and all of the physical and emotional challenges that can arise because of those feelings. Issues surrounding health inequities and the disproportionate impacts that this virus has caused continue to place many patients in a constant state of worry and fear.” Jackie notes that inequality has been greatly highlighted, especially in terms of who has privileges and benefits for work, healthcare, resource access, and home safety. These only exacerbate the disparities in people’s ability to remain physically and emotionally healthy and safe.

As an African-American man challenged with depression, Jordan fully understands these challenges and inequities. He is grateful to Dimock for our continued care for himself and patients like him. “Dimock’s care has shown me that equality in healthcare is possible. It is not something that is out of reach; it is achievable. When you see health centers like Dimock who are standing on the frontlines of diversity, you know that you are in good hands.”

“Dimock’s care has shown me that equality in healthcare is possible. It is not something that is out of reach; it is achievable. When you see health centers like Dimock who are standing on the frontlines of diversity, you know that you are in good hands.”


As new challenges in life arise, Jordan is not alone. He has the ongoing support of Jackie and his entire medical team at Dimock. While Jordan continues to focus on his own mental health, he remains committed to caring for others as well. “This pandemic has amplified his values around caring for others, said Jackie. He is always checking in with other people and making sure that everyone else okay and is coping well during this challenging time.”

Dimock has provided Jordan with the high quality care that he needed, and he hopes others have the chance to experience the Dimock difference as well.

“Mental health is not really taken seriously specifically within the African American community, so I continue to share my own experience with those who have struggled with depression to help others get the best care possible.” We are honored to support Jordan on his journey and grateful for all he does to promote the importance of strong mental health to others in the community.

Elsa’s Story: “I needed to find a way to give back to Dimock, because Dimock has done so much for me.”

Elsa Escobar, a Roxbury native first came to Dimock when she was just six months old. Since then, she has remained a patient thanks to the outstanding, personalized care she has received throughout the years. Now, as Dimock staff members are on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, Elsa feels an even greater sense of appreciation for our physicians, nurses, clinicians, and other health center staff. To thank them for their tremendous work, and to support Dimock during this pandemic, Elsa is sending approximately 100 handmade cards with special messages to our health center staff.

Elsa and her eight siblings grew up in the Dimock neighborhood, and have been Dimock patients for most of their lives. Elsa also brought her children to Dimock when they were little, where they received excellent care from their pediatrician and our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Holly Oh. She hopes that when she has grandchildren, they will come to Dimock and that Dr. Oh will be their doctor.

Throughout Elsa’s years as a patient, she was grateful that so many Dimock nurses and doctors, like Dr. Oh remained. “Having familiar faces there every time that I visit makes me feel more comfortable and understood. I don’t know where I would be without Dimock, the way that they care for me and my family—I can’t find this type of care anywhere else.”

In thinking about all of the Dimock staff who have helped her over the years, Elsa was inspired to send them her beautiful handmade cards with specialized notes of encouragement for their resilient work on the frontlines. “I needed to find a way to give back to Dimock because Dimock has done so much for me,” Elsa said as she described how important this was for her. Now, Elsa is generously considering extending her services to help others who might be interested in receiving cards either for themselves, loved ones or, a group of people. She says, “I’m enjoying what I’m doing but would benefit from the practice!”

Elsa greatly looks forward to the time when she can visit everyone at the health center in person, especially her primary care doctor, Dr. Marjorie Janvier. “At Dimock, they know me. I’ve had an amazing experience there, and I wouldn’t change anything.”



Meet Shane along his Road to Recovery

Shane Poulin is a current resident in our John Flowers Recovery Home, and is celebrating five months of sobriety. With a rampant history of substance use on both sides of his family, the South Shore native grew up with a strong familiarity to addiction. Having to face his own battle with addiction for ten years, today at 28 years old, Shane is proud to be on the road to recovery and taking the necessary steps towards substance use treatment. Recently, Shane found himself reflecting on his personal growth through his journey towards recovery at Dimock. Though he was introduced to substance use from an early age, Shane did not view his addiction as a problem that intervened with the priorities in his life. “I was still paying my bills, I was holding down my job, I didn’t think much of it,” Shane explains. His responsibilities were well taken care of, and with the normalization of addiction in his environment, it seemed to Shane like it was okay to “dabble so long as (he) got things done”. In his earlier stages of addiction, Shane did not feel the need to go to recovery.

His brother, also suffering from addiction, sought out treatment during this time. Shane served as a crutch of support for his brother throughout the many stages of his brother’s recovery process. In the moment where he sought to support his brother through recovery; Shane was going down the darkest time in his life. Personal conflicts caused his life to spiral out of control, and in turn, his addiction was totally out of control. The duality of both brothers’ struggle with substance use disorder was a strong contrast; as Shane recounts, “I was helping to support my brother through his recovery, but at the same time I was heading down my darkest path. It was crazy because that changed everything”.

After being disconnected from personal relationships and those closest to him, Shane realized he truly needed help. “I’ve always known the help was out there, I knew there were resources. I never thought I needed them until that moment, but I knew they were there,” Shane expressed. In the last year of his substance use, Shane sought out the help he needed. Through a placement program, Shane learned about The Dimock Center’s Dr. Lucy Sewall Center for Acute Treatment Services. He successfully went through our two week detox program where he received targeted attention and guidance from a clinician. Through his treatment there, Shane learned about the John Flowers Recovery Home. By the end of the detox program, he chose to continue the next steps of recovery at John Flowers.

Today, as we sit down with Shane, he reflects on both his medical and personal growth. Shane’s perspective has shifted greatly from when he first came to Dimock; he’s thinking much more forwardly and he continuously keeps his “big picture” goal in mind when he plans for anything. The strong feeling of community that Shane has experienced at John Flowers has encouraged a sense of comradery, motivation and drive between himself, fellow residents and counselors. For Shane, it has become imperative to have this sense of community because he feels that they each learn from each other and keep one another “in check”. Shane recognizes his recovery process in certain stages. He keeps his “big picture” goal in mind, but does not fixate on it. After all, progress is not linear. Because of that, he creates small goals from that big picture goal to make the goal more attainable and to take greater pride in his accomplishments. The feeling Shane gets when he checks off anything from his list is unmatched.

With the help of Dimock’s resources and his counselors, Shane is devising a plan that will create a track for sober living. Recently, he’s started a new job that he hopes will propel him into his career goals. The structure the program of John Flowers has created in his life is something Shane greatly appreciates and has reflected in his work ethic. He shares, “something as small as making your bed every single morning makes a big difference in your attitude for the day, how you feel about how you can accomplish your goals for the day and just overall builds a habit for you”. Each day, Shane is building small yet impactful habits in his life that are creating a sustainable path towards his continued recovery. He, and those around him, have seen an incredible growth in his character, values and what is important to him and why. For this, we celebrate alongside Shane Poulin in his recovery.

Carroy (Cuf) Ferguson – Community Services Board Member

Board Recognition

Carroy (Cuf) Ferguson – Community Services Board Member

Carroy Ferguson Photo 06.16Wow! 14 years.  Little did I know at the time of the merger of Dorchester Counseling Center with Dimock that I would be joining an organization with such a wonderful history and a wonderful soul, filled with such dedicated and caring people.  I guess there is some truth to the notion that time seems to fly when you’re having fun…especially having fun and enjoying the great work of Dimock’s staff and boards.  In that light, it is and has been a genuine pleasure for me to serve these many years as a board member, to witness the wonderful growth and engaging transformations of Dimock, and to share in the many accomplishments of Dimock.

I feel blessed for having the opportunity to serve and I have a tremendous amount of affection for all with whom I have had the pleasure to serve. I look forward to continuing to serve for many more years. I want to express my gratitude to Dimock, and to Dr. Jordan, for the award. This is a very thoughtful honor and recognition.  It is and has been truly a labor of love.

With Heart,

Carroy (Cuf) Ferguson