How does a people-first organization that provides essential services to more than 20,000 children adapt to a time where they can’t be in the physical presence of the person they are helping? It’s an unprecedented problem, but the workers at CORA Services are rapidly adapting.
CORA offers services in drug and alcohol, school and community categories, one of the most varied service providers for children and families in the city. But with more than half of its funding coming from the work it does in schools that have been closed down for weeks and will remain closed for the foreseeable future, president AnnMarie Schultz is hoping to continue receiving the proper funding to keep the organization providing the best care.
Stress during these unprecedented times is the key factor that could create problems for families. Parents can be home trying to homeschool their children while not knowing if they’ll get laid off in a few days, and social distancing can lead an individual struggling with addiction back to their addictive tendencies.
“We need to provide immediate resources if we can. That means having a real person available for somebody to talk to,” Schultz said.
Schultz said CORA’s staff is working rapidly to establish hotlines in varied areas of support. In these unprecedented times they are focusing on continuing to give care to children and families already utilizing their services, but are moving forward with the goal of being able to help new clients, even with the building still closed.
Providing services and counseling for individuals with drug and alcohol addictions is especially critical in a time where, during a lockdown, those individuals may find themselves trapped in the environment that caused or enabled their addiction in the first place. On March 13, the Friday before the shutdown, CORA established an infrastructure to continue providing counseling services remotely so all staff is able to continue working remotely.
On the community services side, staff is continuing to check in with families via telephone or online. Even if they can’t see the families physically, they still want to keep them in touch with all resources they may need.
“The last thing we should be doing right now is removing services,” Schultz said.
It’s the services CORA provides in schools that have been shaken the most, as services such as special education, speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy and school counseling needs in more than 100 schools that CORA serves were cut short. As CORA adapts, this is where the hotlines will come in.
“We are working to build an infrastructure where anyone can call and receive support with any need,” Schultz said. “We need to keep the whole department operating.”
In 2018, CORA provided services for 20,000 children, or close to 7 percent of the kids in the city.
Individuals and families in need can contact CORA by visiting CORAServices.org or calling 215-342-7660. ••