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Despite a challenging 2020, the Association of Communities Against Abuse expands services

Association offers a range of preventative education programs, available for people of all ages

Several new programs and an expansion of services at the Association of Communities Against Abuse are strengthening the organizations’s overall mandate.

“We’ve had a very busy few months here responding to the changes and with continuing to support our clients,” said Stephanie Hadley, executive director.

“One of the very biggest changes that we made early on was that we did move over to virtual services, and we’ve also moved onto online case management which has been fantastic because it gives our team access to client information from wherever they are,” she explained.

“Another big shift was that we started, during the past six to eight months, to provide crisis counselling and immediate support which we have never done before,” she said.

“We’ve provided information, and people would typically be on a wait-list until they got a spot with a long-term therapist,” she said, adding that the wait could, at times, be substantial.

“So we are really excited about the fact that we have immediate options for people. So if an individual or a family contacts us for service, and they are really struggling right now or they’ve experienced a recent trauma and they are in crisis, we can respond and provide two to four sessions of crisis counselling right away.

“We can also bring in a support person to assist them with regular check-ins and emotional support, but also if they have any ‘system navigation’ needs – connecting with other resources, doing paperwork, attending the criminal justice system – that worker can support them through all of that,” she said.

“We also really increased our clinical supervision, so our entire team including therapists and support workers has been able to get together more often by Zoom. Our clinical supervisor, who lives in Edmonton – normally we were meeting every two months. But at one point, we were meeting weekly,” she said. “We were then really able to support our team and to make sure everyone was equipped, taking care of themselves and having the support that they needed while supporting clients.

“So our focus has shifted a little bit – where we are normally doing that deep trauma work over a longer period of time, everyone has now kind of been in survival mode over the past few months. The changes that COVID-19 has brought have just exacerbated the trauma symptoms with many of our clients,” she said.

“I think people are struggling more to cope. They might be experiencing a much higher level of anxiety. It may have also changed their ability to do some of the things that they need to do, like the ability to access resources or to have social interactions. Many of our clients have been unable to do those things,” she added.

“Everything is kind of ‘amped up’ and layering that on top of complex trauma – it’s really tough for people,” she said.

Currently, the office is in the process of recruiting both therapists and support workers.

In the meantime, the local office has also obtained some emergency funding to go towards setting up 13 partner sites throughout the region.

“Many of our clients live in outlying areas and smaller communities, so these 13 partner sites will allow us to put in technology in a partner office, such as an FCSS office or a learning centre or another community organization, so we can have software or whatever kind of equipment the client would need to come into that space into a private room and have a session with one of our therapists or support staff,” she explained.

Other emergency funding will go to equipping the Camrose office with technology for any type of virtual training sessions or meetings.

“That means that our Stettler office and our Camrose office can virtually connect,” she said. “It will also allow us to present any training to provide information to anyone anywhere,” she said. “We have the best team because they have adapted and responded so positively to all of this, too.”

Amidst all this good news, there has been an unfortunate event – a fire did extensive damage in what was to be a new Camrose office space. “The only room that was impacted was the one that we had stored all of our items in,” she said.

“If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you will see some information about that coming out,” she said. “We are just letting people know that we are always accepting donations.

“We would really greatly appreciate any support that people would be able to offer. We can also provide charitable tax receipts.”

For more, check out www.acaahelps.ca.