It’s been widely reported that COVID-19 has had a widespread impact on mental health. As the pandemic continues, community members, may feel anxious, depressed or find themselves using more substances to cope. To get on the front end of the COVID-19-driven mental health crisis, Washington County sought and received CARES funding to arrange for free, multi-cultural, short-term counseling in its area.
“The county enlisted LifeWorks NW, Virginia Garcia, and Western Psychological to provide services in English and Spanish,” says Mark Lewinsohn, Ph.D., LifeWorks NW’s vice president, Clinical Services. “Consumers with another first language are assigned to Asian Health and Services or Lutheran Community Services; both focus on a wide range of culturally specific care.”
Jenny Thom is the primary LifeWorks NW clinician for this program, and she reports positive results so far. This is not a crisis line, so after receiving help requests from Washington County she responds within 48 hours. The Telehealth sessions are up to an hour, with Jenny assessing the caller’s safety, support system and specific issues first. Together they focus on developing a concrete action plan, and Jenny offers to schedule follow-up calls. Since the program focuses on resilience and problem solving rather than therapy, they may have as few as one or two sessions. The average is anticipated to be five, and if needed include a referral to behavioral health or primary health care services.
“Jenny is knowledgeable about resources and can recommend organizations that offer help with basic needs, health, jobs, food, etc.,” says Mark.
According to Jenny, most callers share feelings of depression, isolation, anxiety and uncertainty. For many, issues include concerns about financial stability because of job loss, lack of emotional support or basic resources.
For example, Mario (not his real name) is a young, college-age man who feels stuck in his life due to COVID-19’s impact on schools, jobs and housing. Jenny is sharing resources. “He reported he felt hopeless, resentful and depressed,” said Jenny. “We were able to identify what he wanted to see happen, and we are currently sharing resource recommendations. Together, we will form a concrete plan of action.”
“Denise (NHRN) reported feeling depressed and anxious more often since COVID-19 and was able to voice possible medical needs. After creating an action plan together, Denise said she felt a total turn around because of our support services.”
Josh (NHRN) called because he felt disconnected and hopeless both financially and socially. “We were able to brainstorm a concrete plan for making the progress he desired,” says Jenny. “After only a few sessions, he tells us he feels hopeful, supported and motivated, and can see a future for himself. He also shared that the support was unexpected, and he was very grateful for our services. We have plans to talk about additional needs in the weeks ahead.”
“We are pleased to participate in Washington County’s program,” said Mark. “COVID-19 has accelerated the need for mental health, addictions, and social supports. LifeWorks NW offers mental health, addiction and prevention services, but we are pleased to add this short-term program to our efforts. This program is designed to help people who might never have used counseling deal with this completely unexpected life changes due to COVID-19.”
Washington County residents interested in the COVID Counseling Program can call 503-846-45-28, or email COVIDCounseling@co.washington.or.us.