Please see our website or Facebook page, or call our office if you wish to book a virtual counselling appointment, to ask questions or to speak with our staff.
Shalem is committed to the health of our participants, clients and staff, regardless of whether our services are delivered in community settings or in psychotherapy offices, including our Counselling Centre in downtown Hamilton. To that end, I want to describe the steps that Shalem has taken in response to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. The situation is very fluid—please check our website and Facebook page regularly for updates.
Shalem’s Counselling Centre and Hamilton Office
Our Counselling office remains open, unless you receive a call from our staff asking to adjust your appointment. As a precaution, all clients and visitors to the office are required to self-screen for flu-like symptoms before entering the building:
- Do you or anyone in your household/lodging have a new/worse cough or shortness of breath?
- Are you feeling feverish, or have you had shakes, chills, or a fever within the last 24 hours?
- Have you travelled internationally in the last 14 days, or been on a cruise ship?
- Have you had close contact with a confirmed or probable case of someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days?
- Have you had close contact with someone who has visited a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days?
If you answer YES to any of these questions, DO NOT ENTER the building. Instead, call our office at 905-528-0353 to reschedule or to have your session or meeting take place in a different form. Our psychotherapists are keen to engage you in online counselling sessions by Zoom or phone.
If you answer NO to all of these questions, ENTER the building and immediately sanitize your hands with hand-sanitizer provided you by us or by washing them thoroughly with soap and water in our first-floor washroom. If you sneeze, sneeze into your elbow. Be aware that, as a precaution, all of our staff and therapists are practicing social distancing—refraining from handshakes or any physical contact, and remaining two meters apart from you and others.
For our arriving clients and visitors, please know that we are taking preventive steps to keep public health risks low at our office by:
- Removal of all toys and magazines from the waiting room
- Removal of refreshments
- Thorough disinfecting of all common surfaces, such as the debit machine, door handles and railings, and waiting room chairs throughout the day
- Staggering appointment times and separating waiting room chairs
- Posting signage promoting proper handwashing techniques and self-screening questions
- Requiring a signed self-screening assessment upon entry to the office
- Requiring staff to stay home if they or someone in their home is ill. All staff self-screen and do not enter the building if they answer YES to any of the screening questions.
Shalem’s RE-create drop-in art studio sessions located on James Street North in Hamilton are cancelled until at least April 6. Please stay tuned. Keep in touch with our Studio Coordinator, Megarrah Buxton, or call or text 289-527-1790 with any questions and for updates.
Congregational Assistance Plan (CAP) and Clergy Care
We are encouraging all of our CAP and Clergy Care psychotherapists to adopt COVID-19 safe health practices, as outlined by Health Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Health. If you need to change a CAP appointment because of concern about the virus, please call either your therapist or our Intake number ahead of time. We are willing to make adjustments, including the possibility of phone, Zoom or Skype sessions, on a case-by-case basis, as needed.
WrapAround and Restorative Practice
Any large group gatherings for WrapAround or Restorative Practice are postponed. Small meetings with small numbers of participants may still take place on a case-by-case basis, with an emphasis on caution, and with all of the self-screening and sanitizing protocols described above in place.
Let’s “Flatten the Curve”!
We are diligently watching notifications and closely following best practices recommendations from Health Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization partner agencies with Family Service Ontario, the Canadian Association of Marriage and Family Therapy , and local health authorities. Our response is being led by our Shalem Pandemic Response Committee, which consists of myself (Executive Director, Committee Chair), Danielle VandenAkker (Managing Director), Jennifer Bowen (Clinical Director), Marg Smit-Vandezande (CAP and Clergy Care Director), and Betty Brouwer (RE-create Artistic Director).
Like you, at Shalem we are fully committed to doing everything possible to “flatten the curve” and reduce the impact of the COVID-19 virus. That means that we are exercising every possible precaution, despite the inconveniences. Please don’t hesitate to continue to check our website and Facebook page, to call our office, or to email, with any questions or concerns.
Health authorities continue to say that the risk of infection is low. Let’s do our part to keep it that way!
Mark Vander Vennen, MA, M.Ed, R.S.W., is Executive Director of the Shalem Mental Health Network