A lost sense of community is a big challenge currently facing Albertans as public restrictions and isolation measures are enacted to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Fortunately, the Napi Friendship Association in Pincher Creek has big plans to help locals meet needs that have been compromised by Covid.
Thanks to a $150,000 community funding grant through Alberta Health, focused on enhancing mental health and addiction recovery during the pandemic, the centre is working quickly to help community members improve coping skills, support social connections and healing, and develop mental health resilience.
“How I would say it in my way would be we don’t want people going Covid crazy,” says Napi’s executive director, LeeAnne Sharp Adze. “We want them so that they’re keeping themselves at ease and not stressing about life in general.”
Financing programs is one way the government has tried to help, Ms. Sharp Adze adds, but actually making human connections is where those mental health programs will do the most good.
“We need to be out there to help the people so that they can have their families running properly and their lifestyles back,” she says.
The grant will provide one year of funding for supportive positions at the Friendship Centre, family wellness kits and four symposiums on mental health.
The supportive positions include a trained social worker acting in a co-ordinator role and an assistant who will plan activities and assemble wellness kits for the community. Significantly, the funding will also allow a psychologist to come to Pincher Creek biweekly for scheduled appointments.
Mental wellness kits will provide a variety of activities throughout the year, such as mental health information packets, journals and supplies to experiment with different hobbies such as indoor gardens.
The co-ordinator, says Ms. Sharp Adze, will have flexibility in assembling the kits and planning activities that will best help families. “The whole family needs help to keep them busy when isolated or having to stay home,” she adds.
Four symposiums are planned, which the Friendship Centre hopes to hold in person but is prepared to conduct virtually. Three will focus on specific groups and their needs, such as male teenagers.
One major conference is planned for the general public and features a keynote speaker who will address mental health and addiction as a community topic.
Overall, Ms. Sharp Adze says the grant money will help people adapt to a post-Covid world.
“There’s still always going to be precautions,” she says. “It’s a whole new norm.”
Not all of those changes, she continues, are bad.
“Since Covid, we’ve learned patience. We’ve learned how to be more family orientated, we’ve learned how to do stuff with the family with the Friendship Centre providing those opportunities.”
Even more opportunities to engage the community may be on the horizon for the Friendship Centre as Alberta Health has allotted $25 million to improve community mental health over three phases of funding applications.
The centre is currently waiting to hear back on its third-phase submission, which aims to promote focused, action-orientated mental health and addiction services.
If successful, the Friendship Centre plans to use whatever funding is granted to run support groups tailored towards those who experience increased social barriers to mental health and addiction recovery.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze