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Mental Health Association in Essex County using telehealth to help people

Mental Health Association in Essex County Director of Services Doug Meyer sits at a work station. (Provided photo)

WESTPORT — Employees from the Mental Health Association in Essex County are having a change of pace in their daily work life due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Where case managers would usually find themselves going house to house throughout Essex County to help those with mental illnesses, they are now providing their services from their own homes.

“We’re doing it all by what they call telehealth, and that’s basically through phone calls and Zoom video conferences,” said Doug Meyer, director of services. “On Wednesdays, we typically bring people to our Westport center and have programming going on, but during COVID, that’s all done through Zoom.”

When somebody is unable to connect through Zoom, calling over the phone is also available. According to Meyer, the Mental Health Association in Essex County also helps people pay for their phone cards if they run out of their minutes.

Although services over phone have not been offered previously, “We’re going to probably add weekly Zoom meetings to our services after COVID’s over,” Meyer said.

The Mental Health Association in Essex County provides services to people throughout the county. It typically offers services that help those who are mentally ill by connecting them to the proper providers, taking them grocery shopping, finding housing, and other services of that nature.

Now that many people are working from home, providing these exact services has become harder.

Still, “people are pretty resilient and they’re doing much better than I thought they would in this kind of situation,” Meyer said, “There’s some additional anxiety, but overall I think people are adjusting really well.”

Meyer mentioned that the Hopeline offered through the Mental Health Association has gotten an increased number of calls due to anxieties being high but still feels “pleasantly surprised” at how well the community is getting along.

Meyer said the best way to stay mentally healthy is to stay busy.

He suggests that people, “use the time to do some things they’ve been putting off, clean up their house, do some chores, connect with family over the phone, and make good use of their time.”

For some people suffering from mental health disorders, being socially isolated is normal, so their life hasn’t changed much since COVID-19.

“For other people, it has been a tremendous change, but people are really resilient,” Meyer said.

For those who aren’t adjusting well, the Mental Health Association in Essex County does offer a 24/7 Hopeline at 800-440-8074.

“They don’t have to be in crisis. They can call our Hopeline,” Meyer said. “Leave a name and number, and somebody will call them back 10 minutes later.”