The Stettler-based Association of Communities Against Abuse continues to expand services across the east central region of the province.
“Probably the most exciting thing we are doing right now is that we were funded to set up 15 partner sites,” explained Stephanie Hadley, executive director.
“Through COVID-19, we switched over to the virtual service delivery really quickly, and we have kind of stuck with that through the past year and a half,” she said, adding that there has been the occasional opportunity for in-person appointments.
“But for the most part, all of our services have continued to be delivered virtually.”
However, this has been a challenge for some of the Association’s clients who live in remote areas where Internet connection can be inconsistent.
“Also, some of our clients may have limited access to a device, or they might be living in an unsafe environment where they don’t have privacy, or it isn’t safe to connect with service.”
In the meantime, the organization, as mentioned, received the funding to set up 15 partner sites throughout east-central Alberta, she said, adding they are slated to be up and running by September.
“What that means is that a client could, rather than attending from home, they could go to the nearest partner site.”
It will often be in an FCSS office, for example, or in offices of other community service providers who will be donating space and staff assistance for those appointments as well.
“They would greet the client and get them settled into a private space, turn on the lap top with them, and make sure everything is working okay. The client would then have a session with their worker for one hour in a private space at that partner site.
“It will be a big benefit for people who may not have Internet or a device, but it also will enhance our services if someone may be travelling to an appointment with a therapist but then the weather turns bad,” she added.
“It will also really enhance our accessibility and our outreach services to these 15 communities, so we are really excited about that.”
Partner sites will be set up in communities including Oyen, Hanna, Three Hiils, Alix, Bashaw, Forestburg, Castor, Coronation, Consort, Tofield, Vegreville, and Wetaskiwin among others.
“So really, it’s going to cover the entire region. It puts service within 30 minutes from almost anywhere,” she said.
“I’m super excited about it, because I think that transporation and (not having) solid Internet service are probably two of the biggest barriers that people within our service area deal with,” she said.
“It can be really tough. So this is one way that we can hopefully enhance our services and make it a bit easier for people.”
Hadley said they also received some funding to help fully equip the Stettler and Camrose office meeting spaces with technology that will for allow office-to-office meetings.
“It will also offer us to potentially have group-related services. So we could be doing a blend of in-person and virtual delivery for groups for training or for education,” she added.
“Another thing that will kind of tie in with the technology is that over the past six months or so, we’ve had some funding to really revamp our education options. So all or our in-school programs are being reviewed and updated and redeveloped.
“As of Sept. 1st we will have some brand new programming for K to age six as well as as middle and high school ages.”
Hadley noted that the funding that covered related tech equipment came from the Emergency Community Support Fund.
“The partner sites project offered ESCF funding through the United Way of Central Alberta. And the office room tech project was ESCF funding through the Battle River Community Foundation.”
They are also in the process of making their educational programs for the greater community available virtually as well.
Currently, the office is also in the process of recruiting therapists, support workers and board members.
Information about any of those opportunities can be found on the Association’s web site at www.acaahelps.ca or their social media channels.