Difficult Time, Creative Solutions

It’s never been so apparent that we must stand together and support each other during these difficult times. We are grateful for our ability to adapt our services to help clients overcome barriers and achieve new heights. While the future is uncertain; with your support, we can go into it together.

When things change, when routines are disrupted and everything seems unfamiliar, it’s natural to react with anxiety, frustration, sadness, and fear. I know I’ve experienced a whole range of emotions these past few months. Like many of you, I’ve worried about the health and safety of family and friends, dealt with the loneliness of isolation and social distancing, and felt anxious about the future. This has certainly been a time of trials, each of us coming to terms with a new, unexpected reality.

Dealing with all this doesn’t mean we stop moving forward. You have likely shared our concerns for consumers who are especially vulnerable during these times. I consider myself overall able-minded, but the majority of our consumers struggle with serious mental illnesses, which make them more susceptible to the emotions and additional stressors that Covid-19 has presented. We’ve seen our consumers experience increased economic insecurity, social isolation, and health risks.

At ShelterCare, we wrestled with the challenges of serving our consumers and keeping people safe, while following stay-at-home orders. Our services, like Behavioral Health and Case Management, revolve around employee-consumer interaction.

Across ShelterCare programs, we have had the opportunity to connect to our consumers through virtual methods. This has allowed us to bridge the gap and fulfill the ever-present need for our services. To our surprise, we have found many benefits for consumers and employees alike when services are provided through telephone and video calls.

Particularly for in-person Behavioral Health meetings, cancelation rates have always been high. You may be surprised at the number of barriers people face in order to leave their places of residence, and travel to ShelterCare’s offices. Some of these barriers are:

• Lack of reliable transportation
• Anxiety and fear
• Lack of trust towards other individuals, including prior traumatic experiences with service providers
• Mobility challenges or other physical disabilities
• Need for timely or immediate services
• Risk of losing belongings to theft
• Unstable places of residence
• Difficulty in securing childcare

Throughout the past several months, we have learned that most of these barriers are eliminated with virtual methods, and we’ve actually seen an increase in appointment attendance as a result! To ensure everyone has access to virtual therapy and case management services, our friends at PacificSource Health Plans even donated solar phone chargers for unhoused Behavioral Health consumers.

For therapists, telehealth eliminates the need to commute to consumer’s homes and reduces preparation time for
meetings; now, therapists can serve more people. Additionally, with everyone ready to connect virtually, therapists are more available during times of crisis. Last year, Behavioral Health served 256 people; and we expect to see that number grow. We’ve also been able to extend our geographic reach to consumers in Junction City and Oakridge. What would have been an hour and a half drive – essentially impossible – now turns into a time-efficient phone-call or video chat. We are excited by these new prospects and ShelterCare’s increased scope of work (and we hope you are too!)

While we maintain a positive mindset, we are also anxious about the future of our community. In April, the
unemployment rate increased by 14%; it will be a slow recovery. At the end of June, the state rent-deferment will end. Many individuals continue to wait, with the hope of receiving unemployment benefits. With school out, childcare remains a challenge.

Our friend, will you rise to the challenge of making a donation? Your donation will help us as we prepare to meet the future needs of our community.

Already, 44% of families in Lane County are making less than the basic costs of living and are dangerously close to financial disaster. What will happen to these families and individuals in our community when they are unable to financially afford their housing? Our community soon may see family members, friends, and neighbors fall into homelessness. Your help will strengthen the community and aid those who are on the edge of crisis. Together, we will rise to meet the need.


Michelle Hankes

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