Providing support

Synstelien Community Services in Fergus Falls has been servicing the community for over 20 years. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the business has maintained its high safety standards and has done well with screenings for the virus.

In addition to their clients, the licensed business has a staff of 72. Yet none of the clients or staff have been infected by the virus and it’s serious impact on the health of people working and living in congregant settings.

“Essentially we have just been very strict and followed the guidelines from the CDC and the (Minnesota) Department of Health and the Department of Human Services,” Baker said. “Those are our biggest support networks in terms of the precautions we use, the screenings we use and because of that we have done very, very well in terms of for our clients and for our staff.”

Baker said that if the Fergus Falls business has had any challenges it has been with staffing - a challenge they deal with on a regular basis.

“We run with a higher degree of turnover similar to retail, similar to the food industry. Turnover can be as high as 50%,” Baker said.

Synstelien Community Services runs its services through the funding it receives through the state. Because that funding is a very specific amount the wages the business can offer is limited. 

“That is always a challenge in and of itself,” Baker said.

Synstelien Community Services specializes in helping individuals with severe to profound disabilities. 

“We do deal with a higher degree of disabilities however COVID has done nothing to change that,”  Baker said. “All of our staff are trained so we have continued our care to the same degree, now, as before COVID. What can be challenging for our clients is their employment stopped, the day services stopped, so just like all of us if our work had to change, our clients deal with just those same frustrations and the social isolation.”

Many of their clients have gone back to work. The clients involved in day programming are also coming back but at a slower pace. 

“That has been challenging, we are looking very optimistic at that and they are very anxious to get back to their day programs but it has been slow,” Baker said.

While the 2020 workload has not been easy at Synstelien Community Services, Baker expressed great pride in the work her staff has done.

“We’re really proud of our staff here, we spend a lot of time ensuring that they are trained and that they have the skills that they need to feel equipped but really it is their commitment,” Baker said. “We have just a super staff that work for us and work for our clients. They provide top quality care.”

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