Staff of Action Mental Health in Foyle are preparing to commence a phased return to face-to-face support with clients, marking their eventual return with an inspection by the city’s mayor.
Following the long weeks of the lockdown, staff have been busy establishing a new programme which combines onsite instruction and virtual classes.
AMH Chief Executive David Babington this week helped Service Manager Pauline Flanagan unveil the new programme, with a seal of approval from Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Brian Tierney.
During a tour of AMH Foyle, at Springtown Industrial Estate, staff showcased the measures the charity have taken to ensure staff and clients are safe from the continuing risks of the coronavirus.
The Foyle Service has been deep cleaned, while department and training areas have been redesigned to provide training in a safe socially distant environment. Individual learning packs will also be provided, with personal protection equipment and safety notices in place. A new outside classroom has even been erected to take advantage of good weather during the summer months.
The date of the Service’s re-opening has yet to be confirmed but once it does, all social distancing regulations will be observed.
Service Manager Pauline Flanagan explained how clients have been supported during the lockdown.
“Staff have been providing virtual support and training since the lockdown at end of March which has been very well received by clients, who have said the continued contact with staff had helped to reduce their anxiety and distract them from the flow of pandemic news feeds.”
Some clients however, suffer from ‘digital poverty’, living without internet services, making their desire to return to face-to-face contact ever greater.
Pauline continued: “Clients we support tend to be the most isolated and marginalised in our society with no or limited access to public transport, human contact, access to services, living on a basic subsistence, and in financial constraints, dealing with addictions and mental ill health.
“Staff have been creative, thinking outside the box and are delighted to embrace the opportunities and challenges working in a pandemic brings about.”
The Service Manager added that with AMH’s person-centred approach, many clients have expressed their desire to return to the service. Some have indicated that they would be happy to enjoy the best of both worlds by continuing to avail of the blended learning opportunities provided.
Chief Executive David Babington added: “We are experts in our field, in providing mental health support to promote recovery for over 50 years. The team rise to every challenge and this is exceptional. We have an expert team who are innovative and dedicated and this has enabled all our nine New Horizons services across Northern Ireland to plan now to provide blended learning.”
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Brian Tierney, praised the Action Mental Health staff for their dedication in a difficult period.
“I would like to thank the staff of Action Mental Health for the vital work that they are doing, which is currently as important as ever as so many people within our district are looking for support in managing mental health problems.
“Having to adapt how they work in recent months has no doubt been challenging for the whole team, but they deserve great praise for how they have overcome those challenges and have found new ways to keep delivering such an important service.
“I’m glad that they are now able to take steps to resuming face-to-face support in a safe manner, and I wish everyone at AMH the very best as they continue their valued work in the weeks and months ahead.”
AMH New Horizons Foyle is continuing to accept referrals at this difficult time, supporting the Western Trust community mental health teams. Intake procedures have been amended to ensure service is accessible. Should you wish to be referred and are registered within the Western Trust Derry~Londonderry area, contact your community mental health team, the Jobs and Benefits office or your local GP or click https://www.amh.org.uk/contact, leave your details and request information on Foyle virtual learning.
AMH New Horizons activities are operated through the “Working it Out” project, which is part-funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020, the Department for the Economy and the five NI Health & Social Care Trusts.