Inundated by grim headlines, alarming statistics and deep uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic, everyone can use some hopeful, positive news.
The staff at Interim, Inc., strives to be an uplifting and supportive presence in the community as it works toward our mission of helping those with mental illness build productive and satisfying lives.
While the OMNI Wellness Center remains closed following restrictions designed to slow the spread of the virus, those in need can still contact counselors and obtain help by calling, texting or emailing the Warm Line.
It’s an example that shows how OMNI staff can serve clients in innovative ways during this crisis.
As soon as the closure was announced, OMNI immediately spoke with clients and conducted a needs assessment. The center closed on March 12, and by the afternoon of March 17, staff members started making calls to clients to check in with them. With three trained staff members on the Warm Line, a total of 73 calls were made over 3½ days.
Many callers need coping skills
The majority of people the Warm Line connected with were experiencing anxiety, and needed more coping skills and help with relaxation. Eleven people said that they did not have enough food to eat, so we placed an order through U.S. Foods to purchase enough food to create care packages for our most vulnerable clients, including those who’ve found themselves homeless.
We referred those not on our most-vulnerable list to First Methodist and Dorothy’s for take-out boxes, as well as the emergency food assistance pantries, setting up OMNI to be a resource of last resort.
By the second week, additional staff members were trained, engaging on 85 calls, many of them with people still needing coping and relaxation skills — as well as toilet paper and care packages.
Care packages were provided to several MCHOME clients (outside of the Warm Line) who had just moved into Moongate. We placed another U.S. Foods order for additional supplies, and for some food for the ACT program.
By the third week, the staff has responded to nearly 400 calls, many from Spanish-only speakers. There were 104 requests for coping skills, 34 for relaxation techniques, and a few more for toilet paper and care packages.
Cleaning and sterilizing common areas
Any staff not assigned to the Warm Line have been cleaning and sterilizing common areas, or creating care packages for our clients (distributing about 3-4 a day). Most of the OMNI staff are at high risk for complications for COVID-19, and they have been working very hard to ensure that the center is safe.
Additionally, we remembered a stash of bandannas that had been used in the past as decor for our Hoedown fundraisers. Barbara showed how easy it was to refashion them into a mask by folding and using rubber bands for ear loops. We have connected with some volunteer sewers who said they will help convert the bandannas into needed face masks.
Inspirational client story
People we consider to be the most vulnerable are those without shelter who are also not already with another Interim program.
One particular client, who had previously lived in Interim housing, was engaged in MCHOME outreach but could not be enrolled because his diagnosis did not meet MCHOME’s criteria. He had no phone and was receiving no other support.
The day before the shelter-in-place order was issued, he came to us for a form to help him obtain a free ID card from the DMV. His plan was to restart his benefits so he could have an income, get a phone through the CA Lifeline program, and begin enrolling in other services. Unfortunately, he was not able to get to the DMV in time.
A week went by with no contact from the client and we were getting really worried. We had reached out to First Methodist, MCHOME, and several other places to see if they had seen him, with no success.
Fortunately, one of our Community Support Worker (CSWs) was working at MCHOME when he was asked to go to Manzanita Salinas. The CSW let us know that he saw the client there. We were able to purchase a prepaid phone and add minutes so that he could still have contact with us and MCHOME. A staff member delivered it to him at Manzanita Salinas and reported that the client was thrilled.