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FCSS opens the doors to free counselling

The Cold Lake and District FCSS believes everyone should have the chance to reach out for help, regardless of their income. It's because of this belief they will be offering free counselling services.
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The Cold Lake and District FCSS believes everyone should have the chance to reach out for help, regardless of their income. It's because of this belief they will be offering free counselling services.

The local FCSS began the process of introducing the service in February, due to the high volume of calls and requests that were coming into the centre. After proving successful in a grant application for $25,000 through Imperial Oil, they opened the doors to their free counselling services.

Kim Schmidtz, manager for FCSS, said the service is to help meet the demand for counselling and to aid the already existing services within the community.

“We have phone calls weekly, rather, if not daily… of people asking us how to access counselling services in our community… we absolutely have some services in our community already that people can access, but just due to the sheer volume of requests it is hard to keep up with the demand,” explained Schmidtz.

Genevieve Milliken, registered provisional psychologist, began taking in patients on Monday afternoons at the beginning of the month, and has seen numerous clients take advantage of the free service since its implementation.

The program is set to run for one-year, every Monday from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., except for stat-holidays. The counselling service is aimed to serve people who may not have access to employee assistance programs or benefits, such as Blue Cross.

The way it works is anyone interested must stop in at Cold Lake and District FCSS, where they will pick-up an application and make an appointment.

All appointments are on a first-come-first-serve basis. From there, they will receive two free appointments through the program.

“For some, that might be enough, that opportunity to connect and talk about some strategies. For others, they may wish to continue on, and if they wish to, we will have a discussion about what they are able to afford,” Schmidtz added.

With only one day a week available, and appointments accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis, people could be left waiting for some time before another opening becomes available.

When the new FCSS building was built in Cold Lake, they had hopes to one day offer the counselling services, among other social service, within their facility through various partnerships within the community, such as Supporting Wellness.

“Currently, in one office we have the Cold Lake John Howard Society, and in the other office we have Genevieve and Supporting Wellness,” Schmidtz said.

Having these services has increased foot traffic, she continued, adding a good number of residents coming through their doors are unaware of the services offered by FCSS and Parent Link.

“That in itself has been a great thing.”

Schmidtz said in an area such as Cold Lake, offering the free counselling service means they will be able to help families suffering through depression, anxiety or are simply struggling to find their way regardless of their income.

“We have heard so many stories of families struggling with finances, with mental health issues… Not everyone in our community have high paying jobs. Some are making minimum wage and are living pay cheque-to-pay cheque,” noted Schmidtz.

Over the years, FCSS has heard stories of residents travelling hours in order to access counselling services. Those same residents, Schmidtz said, have expressed their longing for something within their own community.

“It is important to be able to offer something close to home. Offering it for free, to me, it just levels the playing field. Your right to access these services should not be determined by how much money you make. We want people in our community to be mentally fit and to be able to cope with difficult times.”