Confidential emotional support counseling is now available at no cost to people who call the state’s COVID-19 hotline (1-888-535-6136). The service is part of a federally funded grant program implemented by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration (BHDDA) in partnership with the Michigan State Police.
Callers to the COVID-19 hotline hear a recording that begins by saying to press “8” if they would like to speak with a Michigan Stay Well Counselor. The counselors are not licensed professionals; rather, they have received specialized training from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Technical Assistance Center on how to provide emotional support to residents of federally declared disaster areas. A major disaster was declared in Michigan on March 27, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michigan’s COVID-19 hotline went “live” on March 14. State employees have since fielded thousands of calls to the hotline, answering questions about COVID-19 illness, the governor’s executive orders and how to connect to social services.
The BHDDA hopes that adding Stay Well counseling services to the hotline will provide callers with relief from the mental health fallout of COVID-19’s presence.
“Emerging or lingering anxiety, distress, irritability and loss of hope are important feelings to recognize in ourselves and others, and it can help to talk to someone,” said Dr. Debra Pinals, psychiatrist and MDHHS medical director for behavioral health. “If it’s helpful, the counselors can also provide callers with referrals to local mental health agencies and substance use disorder support services.”
“It’s clear the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted our public health, our economy, and our social culture,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “As we all adjust to new and changing circumstances, it’s not unusual to be burdened by emotions we’ve never experienced before. We want Michiganders to know it is okay to ask for help. You don’t have to carry this burden alone.”
Michigan Stay Well Counselors are available any time of the day or night, seven days a week, by dialing the COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-535-6136 and pressing 8 when prompted. Language translation is available for non-English speakers. Deaf and hard of hearing residents can access the service through the 711 system for Telecommunications Relay Services.
State employees continue to answer general COVID-19 questions on the hotline. The current hours for general questions are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
To access a variety of emotional support resources in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, visit Michigan.gov/StayWell.
–Story provided by Stay Well.