COVID-19 pandemic caused agencies to have to be creative to bring needed support to the community

More complex issues emerged during the pandemic

(file photo)

(file photo)

From 2013 to 2019 there has been a consistent annual increase in number of visits and participants for Sylvan Lake FCSS.

However, the pandemic has definitely impacted the annual statistics between 2019 and 2020, said Director of Family and Community Support Services Kelly Smith.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions and shutdowns that took place in 2020, participant visits were lower.”

In addition to lower participation rates, more complex issues arose during the pandemic.”

“Financial difficulties, family violence, lack of affordable housing, addictions, mental illness – therefore wrap-around supports are being utilized more than previous years.”

The community has done many things to support families in need including the creation of the Sylvan Lake Community Supports Coalition made up of local support agencies.

The agencies include FCSS/FRN, Sylvan Lake Community Partners Association, Mercy Connect, Chinooks Edge School Division-Community Liaison, FSW, Primary Care Network, Food Bank, Collective Kitchen, The Mustard Seed, Sylvan Lake Mental Health and Addictions, Sylvan Lake Municipal Library, Central Alberta Youth Unlimited, and Servus Credit Union.

“Though initially it was created as a collective pandemic response, it is so successful that it has become an ongoing support for our community.”

Through the coalition it ensures there are no duplicate services and that each business can utilize its areas of expertise in order to help others and provide wrap-around support to reduce the risk of people falling through the cracks.

“All of this takes place with the client’s consent to access services within the coalition and strict adherence to confidentiality. Each individual agency in the coalition also supports clients through their own specific programs and mandates.”

Local emergency funds provide support to families and individuals in need; however the status of the funds are dependent on grants, donations, and eligibility criteria for those accessing these supports, said Smith.

“Most agencies had to develop virtual supports and social media content for clients and participants such as Zoom and Teams meetings, supporting clients through email and telephone conversations, meeting in individual cohort groups due to the restrictions, providing curbside supports, providing on-line sessions, training, and referral information.”

More can still be done to support families in need, said Smith.

“People can ensure that our MLA and MP are aware of the importance of continued financial support for social programs as the negative social impact from the pandemic will last for years. When fundraising efforts begin again, actively take part and/or provide donations. Donate to the local food bank and make donations to organizations that provide emergency funds and household items.”