Leaders coordinate support

No more business as usual: Commercial Street, Takaka at 9.30am on Wednesday morning, hours before lockdown.

By the time the Government declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, Golden Bay was already setting up systems to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
On Tuesday afternoon some order emerged from the chaos of the impending lock-down. At the Rec Centre around 20 community leaders assembled for the first meeting of the Community Coordination Group (CCG). Their goal: To achieve coordinated efforts for the vulnerable and to share, coordinate and channel information about volunteer networks.
The instigator of the initiative is General Manager Te Whare Mahana Trust Tony Keatley, who identified the need for a coordinated and compassionate approach to managing the support networks that will help the Golden Bay community get through the crisis. The group is made up of representatives from the following organisations: GB Community Board, TDC, GB Community Health, FreshChoice, Mohua Social Services, WINZ, GB schools, DOC, Civil Defence, Police and GB Pharmacy.
One of the key outputs of the meeting is the decision to adopt a hierarchy of responses, starting with “natural” support structures, such as neighbours, phone trees and Facebook groups as well as the more formal U3A, Age Concern and Lions.
“A lot of people are already connected,” says Tony, “We want them to access and activate their local support networks. This is so important moving forward.”
Stepping up a level in the hierarchy, Tony says that the CCG is seeking to coordinate an army of volunteers to provide support to vulnerable members of the community. Tony explains these volunteers will be tasked to deliver food and medicines, and says coordination is key.
“Mohua Social Services will act as a hub, matching volunteers with those who need them.”
MSS will continue to operate the food bank and is seeking donations of food and cash to meet rising demand. To prevent staff being overwhelmed, Tony urges people to contact MSS by phone or email if possible. “They will be open Monday to Friday 10am-12pm.”
Staff at Golden Bay Pharmacy are playing a crucial role in keeping the Bay supplied with essential medicines and they have teamed up with Community Mental Health who will use volunteers to deliver to vulnerable residents, if their natural support networks are unable to help.
Tony stresses the need to respect the support hierarchy. “We will try to reserve the volunteers for the most vulnerable and isolated; this will be especially important should there be a community outbreak, which we think is likely.”
The top level in the hierarchy is the range of professional services, such as medical staff, and the tiered structure is designed to prevent them from being overwhelmed. “It’s to take the pressure off,” says Tony.
Although most of the focus in the COVID-19 battle is on physical well-being, Tony says that the anxieties and experience of forced isolation will take its toll on mental health, and this is a particular concern for youth. “They will struggle in social isolation.” He points out that anxiety is being stoked by fear mongering, fake news and the conspiracy theories that are infecting social media. “People should take their information from the Government’s information website.”
Tony advises anyone feeling down, anxious, a bit overwhelmed or just needing to chat to someone should contact New Zealand Counselling Service by calling 1737.
“The service is available 24/7 and provides social support for individuals. They can make triage decisions to refer people to the relevant service; it’s important that we don’t overwhelm local services.”
The CCG will conduct regular virtual meetings during the lock-down period with an online session scheduled for next Tuesday afternoon.
To volunteer for the support initiative or to donate food and/or cash to the foodbank, contact Mohua Social Services on 525 9728 or email: maria@mohuasocialservices.org.nz

ARTICLE: JO RICHARDS
PHOTO: ANITA PETERS

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