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Focus meals demand rises 50% since outbreak

Bold demand: Leslie Grant, executive director of substance abuse intervention agency Focus Counselling Services (File photograph)

The Covid-19 crisis has driven a surge in need seen by the substance abuse charity Focus Counselling Services.Demand for daily meals has soared by 50 per cent since the pandemic hit Bermuda, according to executive director Leslie Grant.The group, based on Union Street in Hamilton, has had to switch gears for counselling and other services.Mr Grant said yesterday: “It’s been tough on everyone, whether you have substance abuse issues or not.”People trying to keep sober is proving “particularly vulnerable right now”, he added.Before the novel coronavirus reached the island, the Focus drop-in centre offered breakfast, lunch and showers for its clients.Mr Grant said: “Since the crisis, we have expanded to provide breakfast and lunch to the community at large, which includes those who may be unemployed or laid off. “We are serving between 15 and 20 persons for breakfast and 30 to 35 persons for lunch.”He attributed the spike in demand to “the economy, period”. He said: “People are not working and some have been laid off. Those that had hustles, those opportunities now don’t exist.”Mr Grant said attendance at the meal programmes had risen further with the lifting of shelter-in-place restrictions on Saturday.Nonna’s Kitchen, a restaurant on Bermudiana Road, had chipped in with hot meals during the past four weeks.He also thanked donors, along with the Third Sector Co-ordinated Response Emergency Fund, administered by the Bermuda Community Fund.Focus’s supportive residency and sober living programme has continued with social-distancing and rigorous cleaning.Individual and group support from its addictions counsellor was conducted remotely during shelter-in-place.Mr Grant said individual counselling and showers were still available — but “only one person will be allowed into the building at a time, on a first-come, first-serve basis”.He added: “We are looking into providing online group counselling sessions, but we will need the ability to ensure participants will have access to internet and mobile phones or tablets.”Mr Grant said Focus aimed to broaden its reach to anyone aged 18 and older. “We will also be able to diversify our services by adding women’s-only outpatient services to our existing men’s programme,” he added.“This crisis is proving to be a tremendous challenge for everyone, and the recovery community is no different.”But he said it had offered a chance for Focus to take “a deep dive into our services and processes and find ways to better meet the needs of people seeking a better life”.• To get support or to help Focus provide services, call 296-2196 or e-mail info.focus@focus.bm