During this challenging time in our nation and in our local communities, we at Catholic Charities have been receiving numerous inquiries regarding how we are continuing to care for people in need. This special COVID-19 edition of our newsletter is dedicated to providing our community partners (that’s you) with an update on how we are continuing operations during this pandemic.

We have made special accommodations to the way services are being provided during this time and are relying on the use of video and audio technology to stay in touch with clients, residents, and others we serve. Clients can continue to call our local offices to speak with staff. We are open and actively working remotely as much as possible, while our physical offices are closed to the public.  

In addition to transitioning our Catholic Charities ministries to a virtual setting, we are also providing assistance to people who have been impacted by COVID-19 through coordination with parishes and schools across the Archdiocese of Dubuque. 

Wishing you peace and good health as we move through these uncharted waters.

God Bless,

Tracy Morrison, Executive Director

Know Your Rights Amidst the
COVID-19 Pandemic
By Yer Vang, Director of Immigration Legal Services
 On April 20, 2020, President Trump issued a tweet indicating that he planned to sign an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States for 60 days because of the COVID-19 pandemic and to protect jobs of Americans. This suspension would apply to non-citizens living abroad who are seeking visas or green cards and it goes into effect at 11:59 PM (Eastern) on April 23, 2020.  
At a time when our country is in crisis, this action should not be the solution. The basis for this unilateral decision by President Trump is not consistent with current facts. In March 2020, the President closed both borders with Canada and Mexico for most nonessential travel. Even those seeking asylum have been turned away and sent back without proper legal recourse. The Department of State who is responsible for issuing visas for foreign nationals has been suspended, travel from Europe and China has stopped. It’s not clear how this executive order will help America stay safe and healthy. 
In fact, statistics show clearly that communities of color, specifically immigrant/refugee communities are disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, Latino/Hispanic Iowans make up 17.3% of all positive COVID-19 cases but are only 6.2% of the state's population; Black Iowans make up 8.7% of positive COVID-19 cases but are only 4% of the state’s populations.
This data tells us a stark reality that requires urgent actions to remove barriers for immigrants who are suffering due to lack of access to resources because of their immigration status. Rather than implementing policies that will help make this country safer, this announcement does not serve the larger purpose of keeping our country safe and healthy. Our economic recovery is dependent on the back breaking work of immigrants in this state. Immigrants in Iowa and across this country are risking
their lives to go to work, sometimes without proper protective equipment, to help maintain and provide essential goods and services for this country. Now is not the time to cause further confusion. 

The message of ‘Welcoming the Stranger’ cannot stop during this pandemic. More importantly, we must continue to make sure our immigrant neighbors know they are welcomed. Even with social distancing restrictions, we can and we must reach out to offer our help. Subsequently, Catholic Charities continues to provide crucial mental health and legal services by phone or virtual video calls. During this pandemic, we want to ensure all people have access to critical services and understand their rights, regardless of their immigration status.
Catholic Charities will continue to do what we do best, Providing Help and Creating Hope! We have survived many obstacles to continue to provide help and create hope for our immigrant community. Despite these latest attacks on immigrants, it will not stop us from persisting to continue to help keep families together. We will do our part to foster opportunities for immigrants to thrive and succeed just as all Americans. Catholic Charities’ immigration legal staff continue to provide legal services to clients remotely during the pandemic. To help eliminate some of those barriers, the immigration legal services team are available to direct those in need to the appropriate resources. Bilingual Spanish speaking legal staff are responding to calls, voicemail, and email messages. Please call 319-364-7121 for legal assistance.
Catholic Charities along with many other immigrant allies in this state and this country call on the President to implement rational, fact-based processes to promote and protect the public health of all residents, regardless of their immigration status, in the United States of America. There are many ways to support our efforts. 
Our prayers and thoughts are with you. Stay healthy and for those afflicted with COVID-19, we pray for a healthy recovery.

Social Distancing Creates Need for Supportive Services

In a global pandemic, the needs of an organization and its staff change with every news cycle and that is particularly true of our Affordable Housing team. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was evident that implementation of preventative measures would be required to protect the high-risk population of seniors, in particular, who call Catholic Charities apartments, home.

Early in the pandemic, staff began closing common areas, increasing their daily disinfecting of high-touch areas, and cancelling group events with residents. Housing Director, Matthew Roddy, noted that “a key part of the plan from the beginning was to maintain a site presence. I did not want our residents feeling abandoned. We also had to determine how we could make this safe for residents, staff, and essential service providers.”

At the Ecumenical Tower location in downtown Dubuque, the 80 residents had pressing needs for food, medicine, and social interaction, so the staff got to work with creative solutions. Catholic Charities partnered with St. Vincent de Paul (pictured above) for a delivery of basic groceries, including milk, bread, eggs, and chicken breast for all residents in the building.

In addition to food deliveries, volunteers have been recruited to call residents weekly to maintain social contact during this time of isolation. The staff have also been managing a 24-hour phone hotline for resident needs and concerns. This line allows residents to have access that is normally not included with the independent living community at Ecumenical Tower. Our housing team has been, and will continue to work around the clock to ensure that we are taking every measure to mitigate potential exposure to COVID-19. 

Zooming into Remote Volunteer Training

By Deacon Bill Hickson, M.A.Ed.

Jail and Prison Ministry continues to provide mentoring and Circles of support to our clients during this time of social distancing. We are learning new ways to serve and in some cases we are the only direct support our clients receive as jails and prisons are closed to visitors, drug court is suspended, AA and NA meetings have limited availability, substance abuse counseling and support and parole officer meetings are reduced to a few minutes a week, often done remotely.

All of our Circles of Support group meetings are currently being held via Zoom. Recently, a group of 28 volunteers participated in a Zoom training session, covering the 2020 Volunteer Guide and providing opportunities to connect experienced volunteers with those new to the program. The staff also led a role-playing scenario during the Zoom session to help the volunteers navigate a Circle with a client. Working in the virtual setting was surprisingly seamless and for the participants. It also brought a higher attendance than anticipated due to the virtual setting.
Social Distancing & Telehealth Counseling: A Perfect Fit
By Lynne Lutze, Ph.D., L.M.H.C.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made changes, regrouped, and reordered our lives and our work. For Catholic Charities counseling, that has meant a quick integration of home-based telehealth services across the thirty counties of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. 

Telehealth services are delivered in two major ways: video conferencing and audio phone calls. Video conferencing or "telehealth" is used for real-time patient-provider consultations. The purpose of telehealth services is to offer mental health counseling that is affordable and accessible to vulnerable populations living in remote locations, and is a perfect fit for social distancing.

As a counselor working for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, I have been working remotely from my home since March 19. I have established a confidential and HIPAA compliant office in my home from which I deliver counseling sessions via Zoom video conferencing platform.It has been a transition that most of my clients have been thankful for during this pandemic. We can continue therapeutic interventions, treatment planning, goals setting, medication maintenance, and referral options. The only difference is we are not meeting in my office face-to-face. 

As a mental health therapist, it has been beneficial to have telehealth as an option for clients during this pandemic. I have clients who range in age from 10 to 72 who are currently using telehealth services from the comfort of their own computer, iPad, or laptop. I simply send a link to their email address and they join by clicking on the link.
We can adjust the volume and image in order to make sure both can see and hear each other clearly. We can easily walk through a test prior to a session so that the client feels comfortable with the process.

One of the many stressors that we are all experiencing during this time is the amount of change and new information that we have to absorb in a short amount of time. Telehealth is no different. Please feel free to call our office at 800-772-2758 to learn more about telehealth, and if this treatment modality is a good fit for you.

Mental Health Minutes Bring Calm to Chaotic Times

Catholic Charities counselors are presenting a short minute (or two) on strategies targeted on mental wellness on our Facebook page.
Supporting Parishes Through COVID-19
While not considered a first responer, Catholic Charities serves as a resource for parishes in times of disaster preparedness, as well as recovery. We assist by connecting parishes to local resources, provide crisis counseling services, and assist with grant funding applications.

We are currently coordinating with all parishes and schools across 30 counties in Northeast IA (Archdiocese of Dubuque coverage) to provide resources and assistance on how to help those negatively impacted by COVID-19.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque