While physical well-being is top of mind for nearly everyone during the novel coronavirus pandemic, care providers are reminding people that mental health is important, too.
“Everyone is a little stressed out, everyone is facing some sort of mental health stress,” said Kristina Shaw, marketing director and public information officer with nonprofit Mental Health Partners. “Now more than ever, people need to take that into consideration and know they can’t always ‘plow through’ it. (Mental health) is just as important as primary health right now.”
Mental health professionals joined Thursday’s Broomfield COVID-19 town hall — held via teleconference — and are offering online resources for all who are experiencing stress in times of coronavirus.
“There are so many different kinds of businesses that are closed right now, but behavioral health providers are considered essential and are exempt for the stay-at-home order,” said Lindy Lewis, manager of grants, public relations and marketing for Community Reach Center. “We’re still providing services, but we’re doing it a little differently.”
Patients are continuing to see the same therapist and since Community Reach Center purchased a private license for online conferencing app Zoom that is Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, compliant, it can continue to ensure the same level of confidentiality during sessions as in a face-to-face meeting, she said.
The Center for Detox Treatment is still open 24/7 at 2551 W. 84th Ave. in Westminster, Lewis said. This time can be especially difficult for addicts who were just beginning to attend meetings, so the website also includes a link to find virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Isolation also is tough for people struggling with symptoms of depression or anxiety, Lewis said, so it is important mental health professionals are able to stay connected for “an extra safety net” if they need to talk to someone.
Most outpatient therapy is being provided remotely until Colorado’s stay-at-home order is lifted, according to Community Reach Center’s website. Outpatient offices in Broomfield, Commerce City, Northglenn and Westminster are closed until the order is lifted, Lewis said, but intake assessments are still being offered to new clients. Those are done in-person at Community Reach Center’s Thornton and Brighton locations. People will be screened at the door and will only be allowed inside if they are not exhibiting symptoms. Once patients are inside, staff is practicing social distancing and using personal protection equipment, Lewis said.
Abigail Tucker, chief clinical officer with Community Reach Center, and Jennifer Leosz, vice president of Clinic Care at Mental Health Partners, answered resident questions during last week’s town hall. Lewis said Community Reach Center organization is willing to participate in any town hall meetings Broomfield hosts in the future.
Carolyn Romero, spokeswoman for the city, said a youth representative from Communities that Care will be at this week’s town hall. It is unclear if mental health representatives will be at future town halls.
“We want folks to know if they’re not managing through the pandemic very well — if they’re not sleeping well or if their go-to self help strategies don’t seem to be doing the trick — we want them to reach out to a mental health provider,” Lewis said.
Mental Health Partners responded to a request by Broomfield Health and Human Service Child Welfare Department to supply additional support to families in Broomfield during the COVID-19 crisis, said Susan Bellas, MHP program manager.
“Many parents are struggling with the stress of parenting full time, in their home, with little or no external supports and additional demands of teaching on top of parenting,” she said, so a Broomfield team created a help line for parents.
During the COVID-19 health crisis residents can call Mental Health Partners at 970-528-0513 for parenting support or coaching from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. Mental Health Partners’ Community Infant Program also provides a “warm line” at 303-245-4418 for additional parental support. This service is available year-round during business hours for parents of infants to children age 5.
On March 27, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released survey results after asking nearly 45,000 Coloradans about their perceptions and attitudes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Highlights of the survey, which was conducted March 22-24 on the the department’s website, included 72% of respondents saying they are “very concerned” about COVID-19 in Colorado.
Nearly 90% of survey respondents said they think it is “somewhat or very likely” they willl get sick from the novel coronavirus. Half of those surveyed have a combination of symptoms indicative of generalized anxiety over the past two weeks, according to a news release.
Mental Health Partners’ Shaw said the nonprofit was fortunate to have done a Microsoft Window upgrade in January that allowed it to quickly move most services online.
One-on-one therapy is being done remotely, she said, and the nonprofit is working on holding group therapy remotely, either by Zoom or phone conferences.Things like art therapy are more difficult to do online, but staff is working through those sorts of programs. Mental Health Partners has closed all locations to clients except for one in Broomfield and two wellness centers in Longmont and Boulder, which are only being used to administer medication and appointment-only medication evaluations.
Clients should coordinate with their provider or staff before arriving at those locations and will be asked six COVID-19 screening questions prior to being allowed entry.
“Our clients are still getting care and services and we still have the bandwidth to accept new clients,” Shaw said.
Since impacts from the pandemic have seeped into everyday life, the mental health tips, advice and educational links the nonprofit has shared have received a lot of attention, she said. Social media engagement has quadruped.
“People are looking for this information and that might transfer into clients,” Shaw said, but it could be weeks before mental health providers can tell if COVID-19 is impacting their number of clients.
Mental Health Partners also created a flyer that addresses increased suicide risk in light of the coronavirus and the isolation that goes along with social distancing and staying at home, Shaw said, especially in light of the five Adams 12 student suicides in December and January.
One issue mental health service providers have encountered is people who have limited minutes on their phones or lack of computer or internet access, Shaw said, so the nonprofit is tapping into philanthropy dollars to meet those needs so people can continue to receive care.
The walk-in clinic on Airport Road in Boulder County is still open as long as clients do not have COVID-19 symptoms, Shaw said.
“The last thing we need is for individuals to go into a crisis and clog up emergency rooms,” she said. “We want people to be able to follow social distance, stay safe and be mentally healthy.”
When considering general stress and anxiety, one challenge people are facing is not having as many distractions since they are cooped up inside, and feelings of uncertainty, Shaw said.
Maintaining social connection is still important even with social distancing, she said, as is getting exercise and taking advantage of open spaces.
Last year Mental Health Partners served nearly 13,000 clients and provided more than 260,000 services, Shaw said. About 25,000 people participated in outreach events, presentations, education opportunities or trainings.
Learn more about Mental Health Partners programs and resources at mhpcolorado.org or by calling 303-443-8500.
Learn more about Community Reach Center programs and resources at communityreachcenter.org.
The Colorado Crisis Services 24-hour crisis number is 844-493-TALK (8255). Or text 38255 to talk.