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Our Safety Measures

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to change the way we interact with one another and navigate our lives. This experience will be unforgettable and make a permanent impression in all our minds, especially the younger generation.

CooperRiis has been following the CDC, WHO, state, and local health department guidance since early March 2020, as well as following the advice of an international group of infectious disease physicians. We have leaned towards a conservative response that has evolved as the community spread has made its way to Western North Carolina.

  • All CooperRiis campuses and facilities have entered phase 2 and have relaxed the shelter in place order under certain circumstances.
  • We paused admissions for the month of April but have resumed in May.  
  • Staff are required to wear masks, take their temperature twice per day, and check-in with our nursing department prior to coming to work if they have any of the CDC identified symptoms of the Coronavirus.
  • We offer updates to our families that are publicly available on this page.
  • Our admissions protocol includes a quarantine with COVID-19 test on day 5; when results come back negative the resident can join community (this is typically a 7-day quarantine). When in community the new resident is required to wear a mask until day 14.

Additionally, new residents joining the CooperRiis program, are asked to follow these steps prior to traveling to CooperRiis:

1. Shelter in place as much as possible for 2 weeks leading up to admission. If you need to go out, you will take all precautions including social distancing, wearing a mask and handwashing/sanitizing.

2. Prior to traveling to CooperRiis, please take your temperature and answer the following questions:

a. Have you or anyone in your household had any of the following symptoms in the last 21 days: sore throat, cough, chills, body aches for unknown reasons, shortness of breath for unknown reasons, loss of smell, loss of taste, fever at or greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit?

b. Have you or anyone in your household tested positive for COVID-19?

c. Have you or anyone in your household cared for an individual who is in quarantine or is a presumptive positive or has tested positive for COVID-19?

d. Do you have any reason to believe you or anyone in your household has been exposed to or acquired COVID-19?

e. To the best of your knowledge have you been in close proximity to any individual who tested positive for COVID-19?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, please contact the admissions office PRIOR TO traveling to CooperRiis for instructions. Depending on circumstances, there may be a delay in the admission in order to gain additional information and/or to ensure travel and entering the CooperRiis community is safe.

Please continue reading below for updates.

CooperRiis' welcome mascot "Curly" wearing a blue mask and looking all so dapper and mask compliant.
CooperRiis’ welcome mascot “Curly” wearing a blue mask and looking all so dapper and mask complaint
WE may be socially distancing but we are emotionally available
Eric kayaks on the pond
Eric Levine socially distancing on the CooperRiis pond

Updates from CooperRiis

July 24th, 2020

A Message from Dr. Eric Levine, CooperRiis President & CEO

Dear Families,

I am pleased to say that CooperRiis has had another COVID free week. The country has seen a resurgence in the coronavirus over the past few weeks, but fortunately, we have done well. We are holding steady at our phased-in lifting of restrictions. We feel that there has been too much spiking of the virus regionally and nationally to proceed with any relaxation of restrictions currently. Given the nature of our communities, we must remain conservative and vigilant in our approach. I will continue to communicate openly with everyone along the way. We want to get back to normal but will only do so when the science tells us it is safe. We continue to take guidance from federal, state, and local health departments. We also appreciate the words of encouragement and support that we have been receiving from many of you. We acknowledge that this experience has been difficult for everyone and will be so for the foreseeable future. We will be strong and determined for as long as it takes.

Today I want to talk about our Family Education Program. Family Education has been a fundamental part of the CooperRiis program for as long as we have been in existence. Don and Lisbeth’s founding vision included the appreciation and impact that their journey had on them and formed much of the basis for the program. Twice yearly, until this past spring, CooperRiis has hosted a three-day Family Education Weekend, or as we called it “FEW.” We invited families to come to CooperRiis and participate in a series of important workshops, seminars, small and large group meetings, and have the opportunity to enjoy our beautiful community life. COVID-19 forced us to change how we do Family Education. I mentioned our intention in one of my last updates, but today I have some more information for you to consider.

Family Education Program

CooperRiis has the privilege of partnering with exceptional individuals as they do transformative work and we believe power is added to that work by fully including families on our recovery teams. Powerful things happen in this community when we all come together to support the recovery process of our residents. We have always recognized the crucial role that family members play in the recovery process of our residents. Family members represent essential sources of information, resources, and support. We know both from our personal experience and also from the research literature, that getting families on our recovery teams greatly increases the likelihood that gains that are made during treatment are sustained long term (Murray-Swank & Dixon, 2004). We also recognize that although we partner with our residents on a very important part of their journey, it is the family that is there for the duration.

Beginning August 17, a journey of education and growth will begin with the release of our first recorded version of our Family Education Program.  Families and residents/community members will be invited to watch an introduction as well as our first module, Understanding Emotional Health Conditions.  The following week, a live session via TEAMS will serve as a follow up to the material presented during the recorded session.  During the live session, there will be an opportunity for discussion and activities for a deeper understanding of the content.  The following topics will be covered in subsequent weeks:

  • Education about Mental Health Conditions, Recovery, and CooperRiis
  • Impact of Mental Health Conditions upon Residents and Family
  • Education about Family Systems
  • Healthy and Effective Communication
  • Effective Partnership around Problem Solving
  • Proactive Crisis Planning and Stress Reduction 

For the next 12 weeks, a recorded session or a live session will be available.  It is our hope that at the end of this experience both residents and family members will perceive themselves as an informed and empowered recovery team that can move forward with new purpose and clarity.

Please look for an email invitation, along with more details coming very soon!

At some point, we will get back to our traditional Family Education Weekend format. I am hoping that can happen in the spring of 2021. This new format is good and will allow families a greater ability to deeply explore and study the many challenging family dynamics that contribute in a positive way to an individual’s recovery experience.

That is all for today. I hope everyone has a peaceful and healthy week.

Eric A. Levine, Ed.D President & CEO CooperRiis

June 25, 2020

A Message from Dr. Eric Levine, CooperRiis President & CEO

Dear Families,

I hope everyone is happy and healthy out there. We are doing okay here in western North Carolina. As previously communicated, we had a mini-cluster of positive tests among staff a few weeks ago. Fortunately, the cluster (the State calls it a cluster if there are 2-4 positive cases and an outbreak if there are five or more) was contained and managed well. Everyone involved was quarantined off Campus, and the two people involved never got sick and have since tested negative. The local health department has guided our actions and response to this situation. We continue to aggressively educate everyone in our communities about the importance of wearing masks, social distancing, and handwashing. It seems that the virus has shifted its attention to the 20-40-year old’s; the thinking is that they have been out and about more than “my generation” and have been less diligent about taking precautions. Regardless of the reason, we continue to ask staff to be mindful of precautions when they are not at work. The Governor of North Carolina announced that the State would remain in Phase II of reopening for at least the next three weeks because of the spike in NC cases (mostly in the central part of the State). The big news is that Governor Roy Cooper now requires everyone older than 11 to wear a face mask in public effective immediately.
On a more positive note, we are mindful that families have not been able to see their loved ones now for several months and are working on plans to set up “visitation stations” at each of our locations. We recognize the importance of families being able to see one another and its relationship to the recovery process. We know a lot more about preventing the spread and putting to procedures in place that will allow people to see one another in person. I’ll be in touch soon once we have figured out how it will look.
Finally, we are planning to support transitions between campuses carefully. Transitions will mostly happen between the Farm Campus and the Asheville /85Z Campus, and (ACP) Asheville Community Program. An occasional reverse transition will now be able to happen. Our residents and teams work hard to be able to step up to the next level of care; we want to support that experience as soon as it is safe to do so.
That is all for this week. Please keep those contacts with your family members happening. I know that many of our residents are concerned about you amidst the turbulence of our times, and hearing from you and knowing that you all are safe and healthy goes a long way.

Eric A. Levine, Ed.D President & CEO CooperRiis

Important Admissions Update regarding COVID-19

Admissions Update

June 3rd, 2020

Welcome Baskets are personalized for each new resident who enters into our community by way of a quarantine.

CooperRiis will move to Phase II of the reopening of Admissions. We are reducing the number of mandatory quarantine days from 14 to 7 days. The new resident will be COVID tested on day 4 or 5, and assuming the test is negative, will become a full member of the community on day 8. If the test was to come back positive for the resident (any resident for that matter), the resident would remain in quarantine. The new resident will be required to abide by the following conditions from day 8-day 14:

  1. Wear a mask when they are anywhere in the community; Community Work and Service, groups, clinical meetings,  watching a movie, etc. The only exception will be when they are alone in their room.
  2. In the Dining Room when masks are removed, the new resident will distance themselves from others, but will not be completely removed from community nor feel ostracized. Dining outdoors or alone in their private room is also an option.
  3. Practice all universal precautions: infection control, hand washing, and strict adherence to social distancing.

Communities are opening and it is time for us to begin doing so with small steps as well. We would not be taking this step without careful thought and consideration. Many thanks to our staff who have been involved in welcoming and making our new residents feel comfortable and at home during this time. I realize and appreciate how this experience has affected everyone in different and difficult ways.

Eric A. Levine, President & CEO

May 29, 2020

A Message from Dr. Eric Levine, CooperRiis President & CEO

Dear Families,
Happy Memorial Day (last weekend),

“We may be socially distancing but we are emotionally available.”

Appreciations to any/all who read this who served our country in any way. I want to expand the appreciations to include healthcare workers, first responders (police and EMS), and anyone else who serves our communities. And I especially want to appreciate the dedicated people who work here at CooperRiis.
I remain thankful that we are COVID free, though reports suggest that there has been a slight uptick in North Carolina. Polk County (The Farm) has been holding steady at 35 cases for the past several weeks. Buncombe County has 279 cases, a bit of an increase from last week. Their spike seems attributed to a couple of hard-hit nursing homes. 
CooperRiis continues to remain vigilant with all of the previously discussed procedures in place. We are allowing the Asheville Community Programs to spend time together. Still, we have not made the big leap of letting Farm, ACP, and 85Z staff and residents to go between buildings. We are looking at some creative opportunities to do some volunteering in the community (i.e., parks that need trail maintenance away from others), wellness activities, and anything to safely begin getting back out there in the world. Please be assured that decisions about how to proceed are based on a great deal of discussion, review of relevant data, and input from community members.
“We may be socially distancing but we are emotionally available.”
Respectfully yours,

Eric Levine

President and CEO

May 13, 2020

A Message from Dr. Eric Levine, CooperRiis President & CEO

Dear Families,

CooperRiis continues to be COVID free. I cannot begin to appreciate the entire community enough for their hard work as we move through these scary times together. A great deal of preparation, discussion, and execution designed to give us the best possible chance of remaining safe and healthy happens every day by our wonderful staff and residents. I stated last week that we would be keeping the majority of our restrictions in place for the time being, and that remains true today. We are carefully watching what is happening around us to see if the lifting of restrictions is resulting in a resurgence of the virus in our area. Fortunately, our area has not been hit as hard as many areas around the country. I continue to urge staff to keep their guards up and not become complacent. Asheville is a popular tourist destination, and as the weather changes and states open up, I fully expect the vacationers and tourists to begin showing up here in great numbers. Hopefully, all they bring with them is their luggage. 

There is more happening at CooperRiis than just worrying about COVID-19. Today I want to appreciate and congratulate four staff who were able to complete various college degrees while also sheltering in place and coming to work every day. While we are tuned in to the impact the Stay at Home order has had on our ability to provide recovery-based treatment, thousands upon thousands of kids and adults have had their educational lives interrupted. The K-12 kids will have the longest summer ever. I know from talking with my own daughter whose been at home with two kids under seven, the impact has been huge. It looks like summer camps around the nation will likely not be open either. But we are a creative and enterprising society and have figured out ways to keep moving forward. 

Kudos to the following staff: 

Ellie Goldstein, BA – Received her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Warren Wilson College and will be attending Lenoir Rhyne’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master’s Program starting this summer! Ellie joined us in December as a CWS Crew Leader, and she enjoys gardening, creating fabulous art (drawings and linocut prints), and loves her cat named Lettuce. 

Jarrett McGinnis, MSW – Received his Master’s in Social Work from East Tennessee State University while working full time in the Recovery Coordinator role at 85Z and some at ACP. His wife also completed her MSW degree right alongside him! Jarrett is an ultra-marathoner and will be an amazing first-time dad in September! So much to celebrate in the McGinnis household. 

Matt Simmons – Received his Associates in Applied Science from AB-Tech. He has been a House Advisor in ACP for many years, also has a day job running Asheville Autoglass, and helps his friend restore her recently purchased farmhouse. When he has time for independent pursuits, he enjoys woodworking, hiking, and swimming holes and plans on buying an old camper and restore it later this summer. 

Katarina Wittekind, MSW – Received her Master’s in Social Work from Western Carolina University and she did her Internship at WCU’s Counseling Center, all while working full-time as aSenior Hall Advisor at 85Z. Katarina is adventurous and loves to travel, is an outstanding baker who shares her treats with staff sometimes, and also bought a house this past year. 

Admissions Update 

We re-opened for new Admissions last week. After careful study, we determined that the only safe way to do it was to include a 14-day quarantine on the front end of any new admission. Most of you remember our Exploratory Visit (EV) process. We have had to amend that protocol and convert to an all “Direct Admission” process for the time being. We do not feel we can require a 14-day quarantine and then transition into a two-day Exploratory Visit. So far, we have three new residents in quarantine, and I am told that there is great interest out there for others who are hoping to join our community. We will continue to require this 14-day quarantine until there is a readily available and reliable (no false negatives and 99% accuracy) test. So far, my expert team of infectious disease physicians are urging caution and patience. We all are hoping for a vaccine, but that does not seem to be coming anytime soon. We will continue to be thoughtful and careful. 

Finally, I will leave you with our mascot “Curly” who is also taking the pandemic response seriously. Curly told Lisbeth that they wanted a blue mask and Lisbeth was able to quickly oblige with a nice custom blue CooperRiis mask for them.

Thank you, Lisbeth! 

Our horses are now sporting their very fashionable fly masks and fly boots! They'll be wearing them from now until late summer. We often hear concerns from residents and staff wondering if the horses can see out of their fly masks, and yes, they can...
And if these three horses had a band this is what their CD cover would look like!

Our horses are now sporting their very fashionable fly masks and fly boots! They’ll be wearing them from now until late summer. We often hear concerns from residents and staff wondering if the horses can see out of their fly masks, and yes, they can…
And if these three horses had a band this is what their CD cover would look like!

May 6, 2020

A Message from Dr. Eric Levine, CooperRiis President & CEO

A determined group practicing Social Distancing led by Eric Levine.
Photo credits: Jeremiah Reiner, CooperRiis Senior Recovery Coach
A determined group practicing Social Distancing led by Eric Levine.
Photo credits: Jeremiah Reiner, CooperRiis Senior Recovery Coach

Dear Families,

I am frequently being asked by people inside and out of CooperRiis the following questions:

  • When will CooperRiis lift the “Stay at Home” plan?
  • When can residents transfer from Level A to Level B/C?
  • When can visitors begin coming back to our campuses?
  • When can residents go on LOAs (Leaves of Absence)?
  • Do we sanitize mail/packages?
  • How much longer will CooperRiis need to live the way we have been living?

These are all good and important questions; all of which the entire Leadership Team wrestles with each day. The Coronavirus task force meets formally twice per week, and then informally the other five days per week. These questions and more make up 90% of our conversations. I will try and answer them as best I can.

  1. When will CooperRiis lift our “Stay at Home” plan?  Governor Cooper will lift aspects of the State’s “Stay at Home” order on Friday 5/8. The keyword is aspects. The State will be phasing in what is permissible over time. DHHS has been very clear that communities like CooperRiis who provide “Congregate Care” are to keep all restrictions in place for the foreseeable future. The reason for this is that our communities are self-contained and while insulated, extremely vulnerable to mass exposures should the virus get inside. We have seen this play out in facilities all around the country and in facilities in neighboring counties (All nursing facilities). Additionally, we have also decided to take a conservative approach because we believe that the lifting of the “Stay at Home” order, combined with “quarantine fatigue” (people just sick of being cooped up and deciding to go out without masks or practicing social distancing) and an opening up of some businesses, may lead to a spike in cases and the need to shut things down again. To answer the question directly, we are monitoring the data and will revisit the question every week. There is no definitive date that has been identified by which CooperRiis will open back up. I have been encouraged by conversations with peers in other programs who have been similarly successful at keeping the virus at bay by taking stringent measures from early on in the pandemic. We are continually asking/reminding staff to abide by all of the CDC and other best practice recommendations around wearing masks, social distancing, infection control, and self-monitoring when they are not on campus. CooperRiis continues to monitor staff temperatures twice per day, require masks, individual serving preparation of food in our dining rooms, and make changes to how we assemble in various groups. I expect this will be the way for some time, but with each passing week, the staff develops new and creative ways to make it all work.
  2. Transfers Between Level A and Level B are in the works. Recovery Teams are planning to begin allowing residents to transfer from our level A programs to ACP (Level B). We feel it is safe to do so but will take it slow. It will be good for our residents to be able to see their hard work finally result in some movement. We are thrilled to be able to offer that now.
  3. Visitors are still not allowed to visit campuses. No date has been identified and we will let the community know when that time arrives. See the explanation in question 1.
  4. LOAs: Same as above. We do not have a date. It is understood clearly that not allowing visitors and LOAs is really hard for our community members, their families, and loved ones, but the risk is still too great. For now.
  5. Sanitizing mail/packages: This question has been asked a lot lately. Sanitizing spray and wipes are available for residents if they want to wash off their mail or packages. Everyone is encouraged to do so and to wash hands before/after they touch mail or packages.
  6. How much longer do we have to live like this? Great question. I do not have a good answer to this one except to say that we will begin to lift restrictions at CooperRiis once the benefits outweigh the risks. I am hoping that the national and local curves continue to flatten, rates of new infections and subsequent hospitalizations drop, and it becomes clear that going out into the world is safe for the community. I want to believe that day is coming sooner than later. We all must continue to do our part to prevent the spread.

Good news; We had two admissions yesterday. We have one new person in quarantine at 85Z and one at the Farm. This is huge and wonderful. Great job to everyone involved in creating the protocol for the people in quarantine, a Recovery program, and as expected, some creative ways of welcoming and including our new residents into our communities. 

More good news: We have so far remained COVID free. While I still believe we will eventually have exposure in one or more of our campuses, the fact that we have not yet had to deal with it is testimony to the great job our community has done preparing for the possibility. I talk with other programs around the country. Not everyone has been as fortunate as we have been. People ask me how it’s possible that CooperRiis has not had any illnesses. My answer is that it has been a combination of hard work, preparation, and good luck. 

Beginning this week I will send one weekly update, likely midweek. I think we have gotten into a groove here and the need to communicate twice per week is not as necessary as it had been early on in the crisis. If that changes, and hopefully it does not, I will bump my correspondence back up again. I hope you are happy, well, and safe wherever you are.


Eric A. Levine, Ed.D., President, and CEO

April 30, 2020

A Message from Dr. Eric Levine, CooperRiis President & CEO

Dear Families,

I hope you all continue to be healthy and well. Fortunately, the weather is becoming beautiful here in Western North Carolina, and while we continue to shelter in place, our communities have been able to be outside and enjoy the fresh air. We all know that sunshine and fresh air are good for the soul regardless of what else is happening in the world.

Last week I shared that CooperRiis had arrived at a plan to begin slowly opening for new admissions. These new folks would be welcomed into our communities after they have completed a 14-day quarantine. This process will begin on 5/5/2020 and will be limited to 5 new residents every two weeks. We know that many programs have closed and/or contracted during this time and that there are many people looking for a healing community experience. We have been extremely careful and have not given in to the pressure of opening sooner given the high stakes.

I have mentioned in previous updates that I have been receiving advice from a group of infectious disease physicians since the beginning of the pandemic. I want to thank Dr. Stephen L. Hoffman, M.D., the Chief Executive and Scientific Officer of Sanaria Inc. in Rockville, MD for his invaluable support during this time. Some of you may know that I am originally from the Rockville, MD area, and have gotten to know Steve over time through a mutual friend. Steve is very interested in what we do here at CooperRiis. His thoughtful advice about current developments related to coronavirus screening and antibody testing has been interesting and important. The bottom line is that we are just not at a point where we can trust what’s out there on the front end.

CooperRiis is doing well. It is Tuesday afternoon and we are COVID free. Polk County (the Farm) has seen a bit of a jump of confirmed cases in recent days. Total cases in this county are up to 19. The conjecture from people who I have been speaking with is that the jump in positive tests is related to increased testing capacity. I was driving through downtown Columbus the other day and saw a drive-thru testing station set up adjacent to the local Urgent Care. Buncombe (Asheville) has seen 53 cases, a slight increase from last week. 

There has been speculation that Governor Cooper may lift the Stay at Home order in NC on May 8th. If he does, CooperRiis will not jump back into normal operations right away. We will gradually and safely begin a limited phase-in of movements and activities. We are mindful of the risks and will proceed thoughtfully. I will report back on that plan once it has been developed and communicated internally. We have no plan at this point. We are waiting to see what the state does and awaiting guidance from local authorities.

Thanks for all the nice feedback and well wishes. We appreciate it and as always, want to assure our extended community, that together we will prevail over this challenging time.

Respectfully yours,

Eric Levine, President, and CEO

April 24, 2020

A Message from Dr. Eric Levine, CooperRiis President & CEO


I am happy to report that we have another COVID free week. We have no residents or staff who are in quarantine or being tested as of now. Polk County (The Farm) currently has seen 11 cases with the 11th case identified this week. Buncombe County (Asheville) has had 68 cases. It is my understanding that Mission Hospital continues to be underutilized for their treatment of more serious cases. I have a contact there who informs me and keeps me updated regularly.

CooperRiis will continue to implement all of the Stay At Home precautions, having ramped up mask-wearing and modifications to group gatherings, and dining. I am seeing and hearing about the pressures being felt to reopen places of business, parks, and beaches. I understand the desire to get back to normal, but the experts with whom I speak with regularly are encouraging patience. We are all still at risk and must avoid being pulled back into thinking that the worst of the outbreak is over. I cross my fingers every day that today will not be the day while understanding that despite all our efforts there will likely be cases here.  So far, our efforts are working. We continue to fight the fight.

I mentioned last week that we are working on a plan for accepting new admissions. That plan is still under construction, but it will include a 14-day quarantine prior to any new person being allowed into one of our communities. There are many details to consider. 

During this time, I have had the opportunity to be a part of the day-to-day operation at a level I had not previously experienced here at CooperRiis. During my year-plus (I can say that now since my work anniversary was April 15th), my focus as CEO has been to work with the executive team on program development, marketing, fundraising, and program improvement. I am now regularly attending Morning Meetings, Community Meetings, Individual Recovery Team Meetings, and the afternoon hand-off meeting between day and evening shifts. I have been impressed with the level of professionalism, decision making, creative individualized programming, and the overall care being provided to our residents. The staff is exceptionally committed and in the midst of this worldwide event, staff continues to come to work every day. I wish that time and space allowed for me to name them all, but rest assured they are all quality, hardworking individuals. I can say with confidence that exceptional work is happening at all three programs. Leadership Team members include: Leslie Stewart Chief Program Officer, Lisa Schactman, Director of Quality and Outcomes; Dr. Yolanda Robinson, Recovery Program Director (Farm); Emma Lovejoy, Operations Director (Farm); Johnnie Featherstone, Recovery Program Director (85z); Christopher Haug, Operations Director (85Z); Stephanie Stewart, Program Director (ACP); Auguie Henry, Residential Manager (ACP); Abby Guffy, Nurse Manager (Farm); Dawn Braley, Nurse Manager (Asheville);  Kimberly Nelson, Director of Marketing and Outreach, Amanda Mastroianni, HR Director; and Jim Hanson, Director of Facilities. There are many, many more people to acknowledge. You all would normally have had the chance to meet and mingle with staff during our Family Education Week that unfortunately had to be canceled;  I’m so sorry that happened. We are working on a virtual version of our Family Education Weekend. Stay tuned.

Last week, a resident asked about having a “Doggie Day” at the Farm. The staff ran with it and last Sunday, we had a quite the gathering of pooches. It was wonderful to see residents and staff having a good time together; nothing like pet therapy for everyone. Residents even prepared homemade organic doggie treats for our furry guests. Below is a picture of the assembled crowd. While we did not ask the dogs to wear masks, all staff did. It was a breezy and beautiful day and we posed quickly for this picture and then resumed our social distancing.

Finally, Happy Earth Day. The first Earth Day was held in 1970 to raise consciousness about our planet. It seems like 50 years later, care for our planet and all of its inhabitants is more important than ever.

Have a great remainder of your week and thank you for your continued faith and confidence in CooperRiis.


Eric Levine

April 17, 2020

A Message from Dr. Eric Levine, CooperRiis President & CEO

Eric Levine, CooperRiis President and CEO

Dear Families,

I’m happy to report that we are ending the week COVID free once again. We had a scare though; a resident in one of our programs wasn’t feeling well and was exhibiting a few of the symptoms that are representative of the coronavirus. The Special CareTeam was activated, and the person entered our quarantine protocol. The individual was tested and thankfully was NEGATIVE.

The good news, of course, is that this person is okay and there was no exposure, and all is well. We had the opportunity to try out our new protocol, and while it went generally quite well, we learned a few things that we can improve upon. It was an excellent drill. Now, we move forward with the continued goal to keep our communities safe.

New cases of COVID-19 continue to drop in Western North Carolina. In Polk County (The Farm) there have 9 total cases. The newest case was the first one in three weeks. Buncombe stands at 33 cases. Compared to our neighbors, we are doing pretty well. We understand that we are still in the early stages of this outbreak and we understand the importance of continuing to take all protective measures. This week the staff began wearing masks full time, and in our residential programs, our hard-working kitchen staff began “plating” meals for everyone. The essence of our programs is the community, so the staff is working very hard to keep our groups together while abiding by the social distance guidelines. Each location is being very creative in terms of how they are spending time together in dining rooms and other traditional groups spaces. The combination of virtual and in-person clinical services is going well.

I am in the process of putting the finishing touches on our plan to re-open admissions. This process will happen slowly and carefully and will absolutely include a 14-day quarantine with COVID testing. I don’t expect any new members of the community until May at this point. I think folks are excited about the prospects of some new people joining our communities so long as they feel confident that our process is solid.

Like everyone else, I am anxious to get back to a normal way of life. Everyone has cabin fever and is feeling cooped up. I believe that a new normal is coming and that we all will need to be patient as we work together to figure out what all of this means. We are asking each other within our communities for patience, tolerance, kindness, and grace during this time.

CooperRiis will be donating some supplies to the local community as well as homegrown vegetables and leafy greens to the Polk County food bank. The local economy has been hit pretty hard and we want to be there for our neighbors as much as possible.

I hope everyone has a good weekend and will remain safe. These times will not last forever and we will emerge stronger than ever. I truly believe that.


Eric A. Levine, Ed.D President & CEO CooperRiis

April 12, 2020

A Message from Dr. Eric Levine, CooperRiis President & CEO

A man with a bandana mask on
Eric Levine, CooperRiis President and CEO

A message from our president Eric Levine sent to families this week. A resident told Eric that she’d make him a “real” cloth mask but rest assured that Eric has not resorted to robbing trains as some have suggested….

~ Dear Families ~
First I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Easter and Passover…

We have had another healthy and COVID-19 free week here at CooperRiis. Our Farm and Asheville communities continue to carefully monitor and implement the ever-changing CDC guidelines. The most recent guidance on the use of masks is our major topic for this update. The CDC came out this week and recommended the use of non-surgical masks in all public spaces. While our communities are not “public” we do have some staff who come and go from each campus daily. We have asked everyone to begin wearing non-surgical masks this week. Both campuses have been working hard making masks; it has actually been quite the fun and creative endeavor. At last count, the Farm had produced over 150 masks. Special thanks to our residential team who has been working with residents on this project.

Governor Cooper of NC adjusted guidelines related to mitigation efforts yesterday. Regarding “long term residential facilities” he declared that there should be no communal dining. CooperRiis is not considered a “long term care residential facility,” the Governor was referring specifically to nursing homes. However, given that dining areas are more at risk for spread because that is where everyone congregates, CooperRiis will implement a more structured procedure for our various communities. At this point, we have positioned a staff person with hand sanitizer at the front of the buffet lines, removed half the chairs in the dining areas and separated seating to force spacing. That has worked well, and we have been doing this for two weeks. We will likely begin the extra step of limiting the number of people in the buffet line and space that piece out a bit. ACP is taking their own set of precautions. The cornerstone of all that we do here at CooperRiis is community and the time that we sit together for meals is precious. We are trying desperately not to interfere with our residents and staff ability to be together during these times.

Regionally, the news in Western NC continues to be cautiously optimistic. There were no new cases reported in Polk County (the Farm) for the second week in a row, and 1 new case in Buncombe County (Asheville). I know that the COVID-19 unit at Mission Hospital as of today, only has three patients. Their capacity is 24. Bed utilization around the state is not a problem. I receive a daily status report for Western North Carolina and it remains positive and moving in the right direction. Our Special Care Teams remain ready to jump into action when/if the need arises.

Our staff continue to provide quality treatment and recovery work. Staff and residents are telling me “enough already” with all of the COVID-19 talk. I hear that for sure. There is a lot of great, important, and meaningful non coronavirus work and fun happening. This week I introduced flat water slalom kayaking to residents here on the farm. The water is finally warm enough for swimming, paddle boarding, and fishing. There is a lot art making, music, crafts, and neighborhood walking (all within CDC guidelines) happening at 85Z and in ACP.

I will try and add more non-COVID-19 news in future updates, but the masks and dining information is important information that I want you to know about. Keep the positive vibes headed our way. We certainly are sending them to you. I greatly appreciate the kind responses I have been getting from many of you. I pass them on the staff and our Board.

Respectfully yours,
Eric Levine

April 7th, 2020

A Message from Dr. Eric Levine, CooperRiis President & CEO

I hope you are all safe and sound, surrounded by all that you need to prosper through another day. If you are like me, you know someone or several people and families who have been touched by the COVID-19. It’s scary. Fortunately, my loved ones are okay and getting better every day. Here in Asheville and Mill Spring, we continue to meet, plan, and take action to protect ourselves and minimize the potential impact of this thing on our community. I am happy to report that as of today, April 7, 2020, there are 0 cases or exposures at any of the CooperRiis programs. Like I keep saying, this will probably change, but so far so good. I’m superstitious so I feel the need to add that qualifier. The statewide data for NC shows a few hot spots in the state (Raleigh/Durham and Charlotte), with 8 cases in Polk County and 33 in Buncombe County. The trend line on NC is moving in the right direction and the experts are suggesting that our collective efforts with social/physical distancing are paying off so far. We are nowhere near being done with these efforts. At CooperRiis there continues to be a “pause” on new admissions. We are getting a lot of calls in our Admissions Department, but feel it is in everyone’s best interest to remain on pause for a while longer.

I live here on the Farm and have had the good fortune to be out and about and witness a lot of good and productive work happening. I am appreciative of the thoughtful and caring effort happening at all times. From the greenhouses, to the dining room, to 85Z, and our ACP houses, we move together as one community. I am proud to be shoulder to shoulder (well, six feet apart) in the trenches with these fine people as we fight through this period.

Speaking of warriors, today is a big day for one of our founders who is a true pioneer and fighter in his own right. Don Cooper turns 80 years young today. Don and Lisbeth Riis-Cooper founded CooperRiis in 2003 and are the heartbeat and soul of this program. Their influence and touch is everywhere. Don is an actuary by training and spent a long and distinguished career in that field. I speak with both Don and Lisbeth every day; their guidance is invaluable and frankly essential; especially during challenging times. So please join me in wishing Don Happy Birthday. I hope you can all meet them both at our Family Education Weekend this fall. I’ve attached the Founders Story for your review.

I plan to write to you all Thursday or Friday. Until then, be well and rest assured we are doing our best to make every moment count as we work our way through this experience.


Eric A. Levine, Ed.D President & CEO CooperRiis

April 1, 2020

A Message from Dr. Eric Levine, CooperRiis President & CEO

Since we last spoke, North Carolina implemented a Stay At Home Order that went into effect on 3/30/2020 at 5pm. This declaration did not catch us by surprise. CooperRiis has been following a Stay At Home plan since 3/12/2020. All three programs remain buttoned up pretty well. We have adjusted our staffing model such that we are “platooning” groups of staff, who spend a week at a time in our level A programs (the Farm or 85Z) and are limiting the to/from to our ACP Houses as much as possible. I know that Stephanie Stewart, Asheville Community Program Director sent the ACP parents a very detailed note the other week explaining the measures being taken at our ACP houses. The focus of our collective efforts has been as follows: 

  • Maintaining a predictable, treatment-oriented routine. We continue to provide individual, group, and psychiatric services. Some therapy is happening through tele- health technology. We have had a few technology related issues, but the IT team is all over it. We have offered to increase the availability of individual sessions during this time. The goals have been to keep things as typical as possible. The power of the community to support one another through this time has been quite evident to me. 
  • The Corona Care Teams have been formed and trained. It’s a training we don’t want to have to use, but we know that it is likely that the coronavirus, despite our best efforts, will likely make its way into one of our facilities at some point. We have specially trained teams prepared to take care of anyone who becomes sick, quarantine those effected, and protect the rest of the community. This will be a big moment if/when it happens, but I feel as though we have what we need (supplies and knowledge) to manage a situation should it arise. 
  • The local health departments declared on 3/31/2020 that all employees in facilities like CooperRiis must take their temperature twice per shift. Our staff began this today. Nursing reviews temperatures and will send anyone home with a fever. Our preventive education efforts have been good in this area. Staff know not to come to work if they are sick. Further, we have implemented a protocol for staff to call one of our Nurse Managers before coming to work if they are not sure. 
  • Regular and predicable staffing. The CooperRiis staff is amazing. Committed, dedicated and present. They continue to constantly demonstrate that “programs are people”. 

I apologize for the “wall of words”. I want to give you all as much information as I can during each of these bi-weekly updates without repeating myself too much. I appreciate the anxiety of being apart from your loved ones especially during a time like this, but please hear me that CooperRiis is committed to providing excellent care and community and we do not take the impact of this moment for granted at all. I am separated from my family as well. I feel it. I get it. I have received many kind notes and words of comfort and appreciation from many of you in the past weeks. Please keep those reassuring loving thoughts coming to your family member who is here. I know that it means a lot. It has meant a lot to me. 

Eric A. Levine, Ed.D President & CEO CooperRiis 

March 23, 2020

A Message from Dr. Eric Levine, CooperRiis President & CEO

Dear Families, 

CooperRiis continues to be open for business and providing treatment and recovery services to our community. However, out of an abundance of caution CooperRiis has made the decision to pause the admission of new residents to our program. The information emerging about the spread of COVID-19 dictates the importance of focusing our efforts on taking care of our current community. The CooperRiis Admissions Team will continue to work with referral sources and interested families regarding treatment for their clients and loved ones, with future admission dates in mind. We will revisit this decision on April 20th, 2020. In the meantime, please call us if you have any questions about our programs or services. We acknowledge that daily changes to program and/or facility access can be confusing, but given the ever changing information being published about the COVID-19, we will continue to make adjustments as necessary to protect our communities.

March 16, 2020

A Message from Dr. Eric Levine, CooperRiis President & CEO

Dear Community,

Dr. Eric A. Levine
Eric Levine, CooperRiis President and CEO

CooperRiis continues to closely monitor daily updates from the CDC, WHO, state and local health departments related to the Coronavirus. Our primary focus here is to educate, communicate and keep our community safe. CooperRiis is open for business and believe our communities are safe places. We have put some restrictions designed to manage community spread and exposure. While we fully expect the coronavirus (COVID-19) to make its way to Western North Carolina, so far there have been no confirmed cases. Our plan is to limit exposure as best we can, take prudent action if/when there has been an exposure, and take care of one another along the way. Please consider the following:

  • Remember the symptoms of the virus include: fever 100.3 or greater, stuffy nose, and respiratory issues.
  • Staff who you had a fever of 100.3 or greater are not to return to work until the fever has been gone without the aid of medicine for 24 hours.
  • In the event that a resident develops symptoms of coronavirus, we will implement a quarantine protocol, isolate them from the community and will be in touch with local health department officials.
  • Outings for residents may still happen with the exception of crowded places of 50 or more people. Staff are encouraged whenever possible to accompany residents on hikes and other outdoor excursions
  • Outings will avoid theaters, flea markets, shopping malls, or other crowded places until further notice.
  • Postponement of all non-essential medical appointments.
  • Practice “social distancing”
  • Visitors will be screened and anyone who meets the criteria for medium or high risk for exposure will not be allowed in any CooperRiis property (See exposure risk categories )
  • Resident Leave of Absences to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • All professional travel (overnight business, conference attendance) is cancelled until further notice.
  • Staff are being encouraged limit personal travel. The management of secondary exposure and spread of the virus is very important.
  • Staff are asked to clean and disinfect work area (computer, phone, desk) twice per day. Common areas are being disinfected three times per day by housekeeping, maintenance, and overnight staff.
  • Clorox wipes have been used for disinfectant purposes. Housekeeping and maintenance staff will make wipes available to staff as needed.
  • Keep washing your hands and practicing good hygiene.

The CooperRiis Leadership team is in the process of developing a contingency coverage plan in the event of an area wide exposure that necessitates programming accommodations. The Executive Team of the Board is meeting weekly and more frequently as needed to review plans and updates to the situation.


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