By ELIZABETH COOPER • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
The hospital network has now created a hotline for anyone who needs help handling the pressures and concerns of these unusual times.
“Many people, although they may have family members in the area and are staying in touch, still feel isolated and alone,” said Ann Marie Mills, the licensed clinical social worker at Bassett Healthcare Network who is leading the 10 person hotline team. “It is often useful to them to have a non-family member or friend to feel their worries and concerns.”
The hotline, 607-322-0157, is staffed 24/7 and is free of charge.
“Someone might not want to burden their families, who might be getting the groceries for them or getting them to the doctor, but they still need an ear,” Mills said. “Someone to reassure then that their concerns are normal.”
Staff all have mental health credentials and can talk people through whatever they are feeling. And they can also help find other resources to address the root causes of those worries.
The team has been taking calls almost since the beginning of the pandemic. In the beginning, medical staff taking calls on Bassett’s COVID hotline, 607-547-5555, referred people if they thought there could be a benefit.
As the crisis continued it became clear that a line dedicated to emotional support could help many people.
Callers were feeling stress over a range of things, from worries while waiting for test results to financial troubles caused by job loss to fears of contracting the virus. Now, the reopening process is sparking new concerns for people.
The hotline will be staffed round the clock so that people will be able to call whenever they feel they need to.
“Sometimes people are worrying in the middle of the night about issues that pop up,” Mills said. “We are there to help, whatever the needs.”
For example, if a parent is feeling overwhelmed about managing their children’s schoolwork, the person on the other end of the line can do some legwork to determine how to reach the child’s teacher or who else to call, Mills said. Staff also has information about food resources, rent help and other types of assistance people might need.
“We could even make calls on behalf of a person,” Mills said. “We are a kind of a Jack-of-all-trades for mental health support.”
There may also be follow up calls if necessary, she said.
“This line is available to anyone,” said Mills. “We encourage people to call.”
Though the numbers are down now that Otsego County’s numbers have dwindled – there hasn’t been a new case in nearly three weeks – as many as eight new people seek Covid-related mental health services a day, she said.
So far, almost all the calls have been from people who do not see a therapist regularly, Mills said. Those already talking to a professional would likely contact that individual if they were experiencing stress, she said.
If a caller develops a rapport with a particular practitioner they can ask to speak with them again. If they are not working that shift they can call back, she said.
Also, she said, she has not heard of people calling the line with suicidal thoughts. If someone did, her staff would be prepared, however.
If they did?
“We are all licensed professionals and we would get them support,” she said. “We have connections to the ER and if someone feels that way we would always want them to go there.”