COVID Care Teams are dispatching across the state to help neighborhoods recover from the social and emotional health challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services (MHARS) Board has launched Lorain County’s team to offer community-based outreach and education to relieve stress and anxiety, especially if those stresses are or may become health concerns.
COVID Care Team members provide free, friendly advice and connections to local resources. Officially known as a Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program, the local COVID Care Team has trained, knowledgeable Care Counselors ready to help people navigate issues that are causing them stress and anxiety, or to find treatment for anxiety-related concerns.
MHARS Interim Director Elaine Georgas describes the personal connection and resourcefulness of the COVID Care Counselors as “extraordinary.” She says that the teams have already helped navigate people through everything from lack of hot meals to fear over COVID-like symptoms to unemployment challenges to grief and loneliness due to being physically separated from family members.
“These are all things that were causing people anxiety that could lead to health conditions or challenges,” said Georgas. “A member of our COVID Care Team listened, and helped.”
This is a local partnership between the MHARS Board, El Centro, and the Elyria YWCA, and is part of Ohio’s COVID Care program from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The Lorain County COVID Care Team is part of a federally funded short-term disaster relief grant awarded to states after a presidential disaster declaration. The grant supports community-based outreach, counseling and other mental health services during the COVID pandemic.
The neighbor-to-neighbor approach of the COVID Care Team also inspires the community to get involved in supporting each other, said Georgas. Community conversations have led to food drives, check-ins on elderly residents, and other connections that can be a protection to an individual’s mental health and well-being.
“The beauty of this assistance is that it is for everybody,” says Tim Williams, who is leading the CARE Counselors at the YWCA. “So often when communities receive this type of support, it’s like, ‘Do you qualify? No, you don’t meet all of this eligibility criteria.’ The COVID Care Team recognizes that everyone is struggling in some way right now; everyone has anxieties. We are here as a friendly resource, for anyone who lives in Lorain County.”
Williams noted that his team has supported people who are homeless, and people who are running businesses. He said that the COVID Care Team can help regardless of a person’s walk of life, and the team is serving people countywide.
Thelma Cruz with the El Centro outreach group echoed Williams’ remarks.
“We are here to help, whether you speak English or Spanish, are employed or unemployed, are a mom, dad, live alone. We offer help where you are and hope when you need it,” she said.
To connect to the Team, call 440-240-7025 or 440-322-6308, and ask for a COVID Care Counselor. Visit mharslc.org/covidcare to learn more.
The MHARS Board is the local behavioral health authority. Its mission is to improve the well-being of all members of our community by planning for, establishing and maintaining an effective, efficient, and quality system of mental health, addiction and recovery services for Lorain County.
In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.
- You’ve been feeling low or irritable for most of the day, every day for two weeks or more. You might have found yourself worrying about past or future events for long periods of time, or simply feeling sad, cross or tearful. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize a gradual change – have others noticed that you don’t seem your usual self?
- You’ve lost interest in activities that you used to enjoy. Perhaps you have been seeing less of your friends or family recently, have stopped going to the gym, or cooking balanced meals. This is really about recognizing changes in what’s normal for you – no one is saying you have to exercise five times a week or eat your greens, but changes in your routine can offer concrete indications that your mood is changing.
- You are struggling to concentrate. You might notice that you struggle to focus when reading or watching television, for example, or to follow the thread of a spoken conversation. This could be affecting your performance at work, or limiting your ability to perform routine tasks such as food shopping. Again, we are looking for a change in what’s normal for you, so if concentration has always been something you find tricky there is little cause for concern.
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.
– Robert Frost