Challenging times are shining a light on the compassion and togetherness that have always made this community a special place to live. City officials, local businesses, organizations, and neighbors are in constant communication to coordinate Coronado’s response during these unprecedented times. Integral to the effort is Coronado SAFE, a nonprofit that has been dedicated to improving and maintaining the emotional and behavioral health of Coronado youth, families and the community as a whole, for more than 20 years.

Localizing the Underlying Impact of COVID-19

More than one-third of U.S. adults showed clinical symptoms of anxiety or depression during lockdown, according to a May 2020 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. Other studies confirm many children are also having trouble coping. While national and international studies provide a snapshot of the emotional toll brought by the pandemic, SAFE is identifying and responding to the specific needs of the Coronado community.

SAFE reports a rise in emotional discord among teens and parents, with both expressing feelings of burnout from online education and remote work. Some teens are turning to substance abuse, adding another layer of stress for single parents and divorced families in particular. In younger children, the anxiety centers on the desire to see friends and wondering what will happen with school in the fall. Military families are noticing elementary- and middle school-aged children “acting out” during this time of tighter restrictions on activities.

“Just like case counts and hospitalizations have ramifications at the local level, so do anxiety, depression, fear and uncertainty,” said Georgia Chakos Ferrell, Executive Director of Coronado SAFE. “We have been able to gather local needs quickly and align our services accordingly.”

Taking In-Person Programs Online

Telehealth is a powerful addition to SAFE’s toolkit, enabling youth and parents to access the organization’s counseling services through the pandemic and in future crises. One parent shared, “Our daughter has utilized Coronado SAFE’s counseling services and not only has it completely changed our relationship but I have seen a completely new side of my daughter. I would highly recommend SAFE to any family”.

SAFE has continued and expanded its counseling programs and community workshops virtually and by phone to meet the needs of youth and parents. In the Virtual Art and Expression Club, elementary students chat face-to-face with friends while using art to express themselves productively.

“Although many younger students have trouble labeling their emotions surrounding the pandemic and school closures, they express their stress, loneliness and anger through tantrums, disobedience and even sleep disturbances,” Ferrell said. “We developed this new remote program to give kids creative space to process, share and discuss their feelings.”

Reaching the Community

While people have come to Coronado Safe for counseling services and groups, Coronado SAFE has also worked to reach more residents through other avenues. Developed by mental health counselors, Coronado SAFE has had a section in the Coronado Eagle & Journal with infographics offering helpful tips for handling quarantine, distance learning, and relationships. So while someone may not pick up the phone and make an appointment for counseling, people are still able to have resources come right to their door.

SAFE also now partners with the Coronado Public Library to make its counseling materials available for checkout and keep the traditional, tactile nature of books alive during the shift to digital learning. For children ages 4 to 7, SAFE’s Turtle Time program brings an interactive book of activities into the home for parents to teach positive emotional expression, decrease aggressive behavior and enhance academic function. The library also has a list of SAFE staff-recommended books for children of all ages.

Bringing the Community Together

While a crisis can make people feel alone and isolated, Coronado SAFE sought to bring individuals and organizations together to develop creative solutions on all fronts.

In response to the concern of some residents falling through the cracks, Executive Director, Georgia Chakos Ferrell became an integral part of developing Coronado’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor (N-2-N) program. The Neighbor-to-Neighbor (N-2-N) task force worked to ensure everyone had the resources needed to face the unpredictable times.

In addition, Ms Ferrell facilitates the SAFE Coalition meetings which included members of the Police; Hospital; Library, CUSD Schools; Sacred Heart School; Christ Church Day School; Recreation Center, and more. While the Coalition has been meeting for the past 10 years, it has been essential in communication as part of Covid-19 response for Coronado.

Through counseling services, small groups, community education outreach, and organizing grassroots efforts SAFE’s purpose is proving more critical and impactful than ever. For more information, to access services or to make a donation in support of SAFE’s programs, visit CoronadoSAFE.org or send an email to: info@CoronadoSAFE.org

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