Michelle Smith, MSW, LSW is a Licensed Social Worker who has been with Community Services Group since 2021. She holds a Master’s of Social Work degree from Shippensburg University. She has advanced clinical training in CBT, Motivational Interviewing and trauma-informed care. Michelle also has training in Restorative Practices in Restorative Justice Conferencing and Restorative Practices for Educators. Previous experience includes work with parents, children and school-based therapy services. She also was involved in piloting a trauma awareness program in partnership with a local police department. Michelle provides school-based therapy at Susquehanna Township School District.
Heather Kniss, MSW, LSW is a Licensed Social Worker who has been with Community Services Group since 2021. She holds a Master’s of Social Work degree from Millersville University. Previous to working at CSG, Heather provided family based services and interned with Mental Health America as well as school social work. Heather utilizes a person-centered approach and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in her work with individuals. Heather has an interest in working with children and adolescents.
A friend of mine shared an article talking about the 1 year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. The article prompted the reader to reflect on how their lives have changed over the past year, an exercise that allows for self-reflection, taking stock of where we are now and how we have changed. It has been a difficult year for most, and I think going through an exercise such as this can be helpful to process what we have all gone through. As I reflect back, the one word that keeps coming to mind is “resilience”.
Let’s take a minute to think about where we were last year at this time. I suspect most of us can distinctly remember two separate phases: before the lockdown, and after. The week prior, I got together at a restaurant with some friends and colleagues from work. It seemed just a routine thing, because it was. My wife and I were planning to go to “IrishFest” in Jim Thorpe and “Kinky Boots” at the Fulton Theater. There was talk of a new virus, but it seemed like a faraway problem, and not something that was going to impact me directly.
Then the announcements came that made the COVID-19 pandemic real for all of us. Plans cancelled. School closed for 2 weeks, then another 2 weeks, then the rest of the year. We were told to stay home except for basic necessities and essential work. Wash your hands for 20 seconds every hour. Everything needs sanitized, everything could have the virus on it. Mixed messages about masks. Gloves or no gloves? Quick, stock up on toilet paper before the stores run out! Our world was changing so quickly.
At work, we had to figure out how to continue our essential services, and we were asking “how am I going to take care of those in our services when I can’t get near them?” Pretty much overnight, the feds, the state, and the various insurances allowed for virtual services. We didn’t do much of this before or have systems/routines in place to do that, but we have to, so we make it happen, and we did. Many of you had to figure out service delivery in your programs.
As the pandemic continued through summer and fall, we found ways to adapt at home and work as the expert guidance changed. We kept our distance. Getting together involved keeping six feet apart, wearing masks, and risk spreading COVID-19. Many holidays were essentially cancelled. While we “zoomed” with family and friends, it wasn’t the same. I got out of my usual workout routine, putting on the “COVID 19”. At work, Google Meets are fine, but I miss interacting with colleagues and patients in person. I’m in the office, but sometimes it feels like I’m alone anyway, since most of the day my office door is shut while I see patients virtually. I’m not necessarily lonely, but I miss the in person interactions.
But I am grateful and hopeful. Many have experienced painful losses this past year, but I was fortunate in that perspective. My heart goes out to those personally impacted. In addition to the physical toll, this past year has seen significant increases in anxiety and depression, and it may take some time before we truly understand the mental health impact of COVID-19. I am grateful that I and CSG are in the position to help our employees and clients navigate through today’s challenges. I appreciate the resilience I see around me. We have all adapted in our personal and professional lives, and taken care of each other when needed. It’s amazing to consider the scientific breakthroughs that have given us vaccines and the innovative ways we are seeing to deliver them. Who would have thought the old BonTon space at the mall would be a mass vaccination site? As the vaccine rollout quickens it offers the promise of easing restrictions and re-opening previously taken-for-granted social activities. I am very much looking forward to the return of live events, such as sports and theater. Live music. Get togethers with friends. VACATION! And noise in the hallway outside my office with my door open whenever possible.
My hope is that we continue to be resilient and help each other when that becomes difficult. By the way, I’m also committing to getting back in shape and dropping that “COVID 19”.
Dr. Adam Biuckians, Medical Director
Amy Ward, MPH, MSN, CRNP is a board certified psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner. She obtained her master of science in nursing degree from Wilkes University, and also has a Master of Public Health degree from West Chester University. Working in mental health since 2007, she has served in a variety of clinical and supervisory roles. Using person-centered and recovery oriented approaches to treatment, Amy provides diagnostic evaluations and medication management to children, adolescents, and adults at Community Services Group.