Setting the Scene – Santa Maria responds to COVID-19
At Santa Maria, facing the COVID 19 healthcare crisis remains an up close and challenging task. Our staff has recognized, first-hand, the meaning of being essential workers serving clients and their families, every day. They are following changed health protocols which require diligence and much greater effort. They are moving direct services to telehealth and reimagining the delivery of other services through social distancing and small groups, requiring thoughtful consideration and innovative thinking. They are balancing work and home life in these unprecedented times. Many of our staff are parents and grandparents working valiantly to help their children adapt to virtual learning. Some also face economic hardship as family members are either unemployed or having their hours reduced, while household expenses are on the rise. And of course, there is also the constant anxiety and concern about staying healthy and bringing home the virus to loved ones. In short, the stress of the times and the need for self-care has never been greater.
It is important to remember that the work we do is challenging in the best of times. Each day, we are called to serve women in distress, in crisis. Their emotions are raw and demanding, their needs great and our collective response is critical! Protecting our own health is the only way to ensure that our work will be effective and successful.
We support each other with through weekly communications aimed at humor, beauty, recognition of a job well done and inspirational messages, all to lift the spirit. Nadine, our CEO, sends frequent updates with encouragement and caring. We deeply feel our colleague’s concerns and check in with each other regularly. We hear from our supporters with messages of encouragement and goodwill. While we have strengthened our community, we nevertheless
recognize that prolonged stress and anxiety are very likely to have grave consequences on the mental health of our staff and their families. We are committed to addressing this concern.
Building a Foundation for Resilience
In early September, SMH was awarded a second important COVID emergency grant from Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF). The funds from the award will be used for accelerated needs for mothers participating in our Caring for Two program, a program focused on critical early childhood brain development. It will also serve to cover some of the high costs of PPE and disinfectant that are paramount to our defense against the virus. The third area of support comes from dollars awarded directly to the mental health and wellness of our staff. We recognize that resilience will be the key to positive mental health to maintain strength in these times. We are excited to be able to craft and fund a program directed at the care and well-being of our employees.
We know the pandemic’s psychological effect on the general public, essential workers and coronavirus survivors are similar to those of large scale disasters, when depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety spike. Coupled with the grief and loss of loved ones, poor health and loss of meaningful social contact and social recreation, many people will consider therapy for the first time to improve their well-being. There is a trend to seek professional help with less stigma.
Introducing SMH STRONG
*This project was funded by a grant from Episcopal Health Foundation
SMH has partnered with two Houston agencies, Family Houston and Mental Health America Greater Houston, to provide direct services to our
staff, with all costs covered by the emergency grant funding.
Family Houston will be offering individual, couples or family professional, confidential counseling through 6 “results based” sessions connecting therapist and staff member through telehealth services. Each and every staff member will be encouraged to attend these sessions without worrying about incurring costs. Participating staff will also be eligible to continue with free financial coaching and case management assistance, if desired.
Mental Health America Greater Houston will be offering classes on the following topics, with open registration to all employees. The classes will be organized with small groups of cohorts with ample opportunity for participation. The topics are Self-Care and Burnout, Self-Care and Mental Health, Mental Health First Aid and Trauma 101.
We expect to “roll out” the two-pronged support in the next few weeks and will keep you posted on our experiences. We are grateful for our deep connection with Episcopal Health Foundation and their trust in our work. We encourage others to consider how to support one another in these uncertain and challenging times, in new ways, in ways that are proactive and full of grace.
From the EHF website:
EHF has awarded the final round of grants in a $6 million response to help 64 nonprofit clinics and other organizations that are serving at-risk communities in Texas on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. This grant funding is one part of the foundation’s $10 million comprehensive plan addressing the crisis across the state.
“These organizations continue to provide medical and health services to low-income Texas families who are being most impacted by the pandemic,” said Elena Marks, EHF’s president and CEO.
“COVID-19 has highlighted how non-medical, community factors are often the root causes of poor health, including chronic diseases that leave people more vulnerable to public health events and disasters. The urgency to address these social and community factors has never been greater. This work can’t be done without our partners and this funding is helping these organizations remain strong through the pandemic.”
All of the organizations that received these COVID-19 grants are current EHF grantees working within the foundation’s strategic plan to improve health, not just health care in Texas. In addition to added demand and additional costs, many of these organizations are also transitioning to telehealth and remote services during the pandemic.
For more information:
EHF COVID Emergency Awards, click here.
Family Houston, click here.
Mental Health America Greater Houston, click here.