Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Long drives into the city for mental health may be a thing of the past in Cypress County, as they work to bring counselling into the backyards of those in smaller communities.
Cypress County’s Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) are working in collaboration with Medicine Hat Family Services to help remove some of the distance barriers faced by county residents, said Director of Municipal Services Jeffery Dowling.
The county provides funding to FCSS to carry out social services on their behalf, said Dowling.
“They can do it better than we can; they have the technical expertise and the proper people to, to carry out really good professional services,” said Dowling. “ So what we do, rather than try to replicate what they do, is help them by supporting them with funding, so that they can run their programs. And so one of the organizations that we provide funding to is Medicine Hat Family Services, based in Medicine Hat, obviously, and they specialize in counselling, as well as other services.”
Discussion of the idea to bring counselling out to county residents began in 2021 while noticing the need for services in the area, but public health measures prevented implementation.
“It was all great in concept and in theory, but of course with COVID-19 and trying to keep social distance, primarily what Medicine Hat Family Services was doing, like everybody was doing their counselling services, either over the telephone,or virtually,” said Dowling. “But now that some of the health restrictions are being relaxed, because of the situation now being a little bit more promising with surrounding COVID-19, we had some discussions recently with Medicine Hat Family Services staff and felt that maybe this would be an appropriate time to try to implement this program for 2022.”
The County has put forward an online survey to better gauge what services residents are needing, as well as where these services are needed in the county.
“The idea behind the serving is just to gather some upfront information to kind of see what and where the needs are best suited or prioritized,” said Dowling. “And then from there, kind of figure out a game plan, that Medicine Have Family Services to come out to those communities, and then determine what the frequency would be. So whether it’s, you know, once a month, or once every couple months.”
Cypress County will provide proper facilities for the staff when visiting the communities, said Dowling, to facilitate confidentiality and comfort for residents in need of services.
Dowling hopes that bringing the opportunity out to residents will encourage those in need of help to reach out and get the assistance they need, be it with stress, anxiety, or any other factor that could stand to benefit.
“The idea here is that sometimes, people think, well, you know, I got to go out of my way to make the appointment, or show up for the appointment and travel into Medicine Hat,” said Dowling. “This it a little bit more convenient. Maybe it’s an opportunity that they might consider or take better advantage of, because it’s in their backyard now. So, that was kind of the premise behind it, so we’ll see, we haven’t really done this before. But Medicine Hat Family Services was willing to step up and attempt this; we don’t know what the outcome or the results are going to be, but we’ll see how it goes.”
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