By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services (SYFS) is not immune to the challenges going on in the rest of the world during the pandemic, according to Executive Director Christine Mowry. She recently shared her concerns as students head back into classrooms and colder months are almost here.
The organization currently has a four-month wait list for outpatient treatment even though they have expanded their school-based programs, clinic consultations and social/emotional learning.
“It’s already more than we have anticipated,” she explained. “Nobody is surprised, everybody knew this was coming and we have a strong team in place that is ready to respond. But it’s also coming at a time when our budget is hugely impacted by COVID.”
The needs are many, including food insecurity, potential home evictions and social and emotional.
Getting food to people who cannot access it because they have no transportation is one concern, as well as the expected lifting of the eviction moratorium on Oct 17.
In addition, Mowry noted that the agency is facing a $130,000 budget deficit.
“Our $130,000 budget deficit is a reflection of funding lost due to the impact of COVID (grants, sponsorships, donations). It also includes $50,000 of state funding that we lost this year,” Mowry clarified in an email.
Meanwhile, the agency is fielding multiple referrals daily for their school-based trauma clinician.
When schools opened, Mowry and her staff knew that there would be a lot of work. There are children who have been living in neglectful and abusive environments and kids struggling with suicidal thoughts, anxiety and depression due to the pandemic.
Case management is by appointment only which is currently taking place outside at least until it becomes too cold. Most other services are conducted via Telehealth.
In addition to their own caseload, they are covering for the Council on Aging (COA) whose outreach coordinator recently retired. The COA is in the process of recruiting for this position.
The agency is still hosting a Mental Health First Aid training and will be transitioning that program to a virtual platform later in October.
“It’s really important for [school] districts who are not only concerned about their students but about their staff…It’s a perfect storm,” she explained.
She noted that her own staff is facing challenges with balancing work with young children at home who are learning remotely.
With a lot of people not working, Mowry is further concerned about their ability to fundraise. Corporate sponsorships are down, and businesses are struggling. She is hoping that there is a second round of funding through The Cares Act. Their biggest fundraiser will likely be held again virtually in the spring.
Through all of this she remains grateful for her staff.
“I could not ask for a more dedicated and trauma informed staff,” she said. “We are so blessed to have the people that we have in that building.”
For more information about SYFS or to donate, visit https://syfs-ma.org.