In any catastrophe, the medical needs must be tended first, followed by a wave of behavioral health issues that can last for months and years.
The COVID-19 infection rate peaked in Connecticut at the end of April and now the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network (BHN) is preparing for increased demand for mental health services from people for anxiety, depression, isolation, fear and substance abuse.
To address the surge, the BHN launched the Community Care Center hotline (1.833.621.0600). Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the free service combines existing medical health advice from BHN experts with mental health and substance abuse services. The move replicates the BHN’s traditional model of treating people holistically and offering support so people can live their healthiest lives.
“We want to support individuals who are struggling,” said Patricia Rehmer, MSN, ACHE, president of the Behavioral Health Network and senior vice president of Hartford HealthCare, in the May 20 HHC media briefing. “Reports say 75,000 people will die of suicide in this country if we don’t get in front of it.”
She said people are feeling interrupted grief, depression, isolation and fear as a result of the pandemic, and this is a way they can get help handling those emotions.
It’s not unlike the behavioral health issues that plagued New Yorkers in the weeks and months after 9/11, said HCC President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Flaks, who worked in a Manhattan hospital at the time of the terrorist attacks.
“For one year, we set up support centers in lower Manhattan,” he said.
That experience fueled his expectations of the community’s post-COVID needs.
“I think we can expect to see significant behavioral health needs now and well into the future,” he said. “This is a similar set of circumstances. We wondered how can we use all our capabilities in behavioral health to help?”
The hotline is available to anyone needing help. Clinicians are available to talk by phone, provide support in the moment, conduct screenings for behavioral health needs and, if needed, refer callers to additional behavioral health services available across the state, where they can follow up in person or virtually.
Hotline staff can help address:
- Managing emotions.
- Mental health support.
- Substance use issues.
- Medical issues and concerns about COVID-19.
- Uncertainty about school or work.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Ours is a well-resourced network and it’s very important the community has access to these services,” Rehmer said.
“Behavioral health is part of overall health,” added BHN Psychiatrist-in-Chief Dr. John Santopietro. “This is a prime example of us doing all we can so people can live their healthiest lives.”
The Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network is now scheduling virtual-health visits for mental health and addiction services. Call your provider for details. New patients can schedule a virtual visit by calling 1.888.984.2408.
For more information on the programs and services available through the Behavioral Health Network, click here.
Need to see your doctor? New Patient? For more information about Hartford HealthCare virtual health visits, click here.
Sign up for our “Coping with COVID” podcast series here.
Stay with Hartford HealthCare for everything you need to know about the coronavirus threat. Click here for information updated daily.