COVID Support VT complements the mental health and community services and supports that already exist throughout Vermont.
Funding is provided through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Vermont Care Partners (VCP), of which NCSS is one of 10 Designated Agencies, is administering the grant under contract with the Vermont Department of Mental Health.
As virus numbers rise, Vermonters urged to take care of mental health
MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) – You are not alone — That was the message from the governor and Vermont health officials on Friday as the pandemic continues to weigh heavily on people’s minds.
Help is always a quick call away. And the voices on the other line have all of Vermont’s resources on hand. Dial 211, then 2, to hear from counselors like Sunny Naughton.
“We really do want to hear that phone ring,” said Naughton, one of three COVID support counselors who’ve fielded 744 calls to 211 since the beginning of October. That’s when the state adopted the FEMA-funded COVID support Vermont hotline.
Naughton says it’s clear the holidays and impending winter are taking a toll on many’s mental health. “In the last few weeks, just getting into November, we really do have people calling, especially around the holiday last week, we were offering services during Thanksgiving,” Naughton said.
COVID Support Vermont reports they picked up the phone 455 more times in November than October and website visits have doubled. Mental Health Commissioner Sarah Squirrell says Vermont is seeing an uptick in opioid-related fatalities this year compared to last. She projects that may be because people are isolated and therefore using alone.
She says the social connection is key — checking in on the people in your life regularly who may have already suffered or you suspect are suffering now.
“It’s okay not to feel okay right now. There are many valid reasons to be worried, overwhelmed, anxious, and exhausted, and if these feelings are beginning to impact you, seeking help can be very supportive,” Squirrell said.
Squirrell stresses that tending to your mental health is just as important as protecting your physical health. “To control the virus, it’s all about testing and tracing. And for mental health and suicide prevention, it’s all about outreach and screening,” she said.
And support doesn’t always come in the form of one-on-one counseling at one of the state’s 10 community mental health agencies. Naughton says simple solutions can have a significant impact. “We’ve referred people to wellness centers. I recently referred a young businesswoman to a business association. So, we really try to look at the whole person and help them get what they need in the moment,” she said.
Naughton says her three-person team of counselors is capable of handling a higher volume of calls and are prepared. She says 80 percent of the time, calls last only 15 minutes before the person on the other end is connected with the service that suits them.
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