Providing access to appropriate care, engaging individuals and families.
We believe that the mental health of newcomers impacts an individual’s ability to integrate into the community. We also believe that everyone deserves access to appropriate care. In keeping with this philosophy, in 2019/20 COSTI expanded services offered to refugees by securing additional staffing, as many have severe and complex trauma issues, requiring intensive counselling by our social workers. The increased anxiety and stress experienced by this vulnerable population due to the pandemic, resulted in an increase in calls for services by 35% in March alone.
We continued to make the mental health needs of newcomers a priority in 2019/20. Our psychiatric care model changed to a model stressing intensive psychotherapeutic interventions. In addition, we engaged an Arabic-speaking psychiatrist to help in managing the long wait-list of individuals needing our help.
In response to requests from community partners, COSTI’s Mental Health Services expanded its services by supporting the clients of other settlement and employment services organizations by providing workshops on coping with COVID anxiety, the uncertainty of employment, and reducing the risk of developing maladaptive behaviours including online gaming/gambling and digital dependency.
In addition, COSTI is engaged in a research project that will produce an evidence-based, client informed service delivery model to respond to abuse survivors of domestic violence from diverse communities that may be replicated across Canada. Its focus is on individuals who return to unsafe situations because of barriers in accessing services such as childcare, safety planning, housing, etc.
The pandemic necessitated the temporary suspension of in-person counselling, crisis intervention and referral services to women and children experiencing relations-based abuse. Service requests increased by 53% as we temporarily shifted to telephone and virtual support in late February and early March, However, recognizing that in-person counselling support is the preferred method of our clients, our psychiatric services moved to in-person services as soon as it was safe to do so.
In the coming year, as the pandemic continues, we are working to shift our treatment plans to accommodate the growing numbers of individuals who are struggling with the effects of the pandemic and finding it difficult to cope. We hope to secure additional support to broaden the scope of our work and the availability of mental health services to community partners and all COSTI clients.