Let’s never stop, Idaho! New programs and services offer behavioral health assistance during the pandemic

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” Emily Dickenson

With the COVID-19 pandemic now firmly sitting on our doorstep, most of us are experiencing our first ever black swan event – a once in a generation major occurrence that has come as a complete surprise, challenges our assumptions and ways of life, and tests our collective strength. While history shows us that all pandemics will come to an end, this one does feel infinite.

Adjusting to the “new normal” is challenging, tiring, and it stretches our perceived psychological limits. We’re all feeling pressure and stress about the economy, our health, our relationships with family and friends, and our jobs amid large spikes of COVID-19 cases across some areas of the state. It’s easy to feel like maybe the best times are behind us.

But during quiet moments of despair we might overlook how much more we are connecting with friends and family via technology, the simple beauty and wonder in our own backyards at dawn and dusk, and the new and surprising habits and traditions we are creating that bring us joy and pleasure.

Although it can often feel like it, you are not alone. The Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) in the Department of Health and Welfare is continually thinking about how to better serve the evolving needs of mental health providers and the public. DBH created a statewide COVID19 Strike Team in April that meets daily to address our specific state needs during the growing public and behavioral health emergency related to the pandemic.

Thanks to funding from our federal partners, DBH is now implementing an emergency grant offered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) under the federal Department of Health & Human Services, that is allowing us to offer important programs to help Idahoans. 

Struggling with addiction? One new program offers Substance Use Disorder (SUD) services for qualifying Idahoans who have been affected by COVID-19.

Who is eligible?

  • Uninsured residents of Idaho impacted by COVID-19. This includes anyone who has been impacted in any way by COVID-19 and is not limited to those who have contracted the illness.
  • Individuals who meet the income guidelines (earn less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit).

What services are available? Among others, they include:

  • Social detox
  • Outpatient services
  • Inpatient services (limited availability)
  • Drug Testing
  • Safe and Sober Housing
  • Case Management

How to access these services?

  • Any uninsured resident of Idaho seeking SUD services should call BPA Health at 1-800-922-3406 to determine eligibility. If eligible, a comprehensive assessment will be scheduled with a SUD treatment professional so a treatment plan can be developed.  All costs for treatment and associated services will be paid for through this SAMHSA grant for qualifying Idahoans.

Working on the front lines and in need of self care?  The SAMHSA Emergency COVID-19 grant is also funding the Coronavirus Counseling Assistance for Frontline Workers (CCAFW) program, which offers counseling assistance and services for frontline workers who are affected by the stressors brought about by COVID-19. Frontline workers are people who, through their employment, are experiencing secondary traumatic stress reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic, and include, but are not limited to, medical professionals, first responders, counselors, and hospital employees.

Services provided include:

  • Screening and Benefit Navigation — This service is for people with insurance, including Medicaid. This program assists in benefit navigation and provides referrals to behavioral health resources. 
  • 5-Sesssion Professional Assistance Program — This service is for people who do not have access to behavioral health services through their current benefits or have significant financial or other barriers to those benefits. The program offers up to five sessions of confidential assessment and brief solution-focused problem intervention provided by licensed, professional counselors. Sessions are offered via telehealth services or, when appropriate given social distancing measures, face-to-face. Sessions can be individual, couples, or family counseling.

For more information about the program, call 1-866-536-0239.

Need additional COVID-19 Resources? We have developed a webpage for COVID-19 Behavioral Health Information, which we continue to update with lots of resources for families, parents, teachers, providers, and others. This is your one-stop-shop for everything related to Idaho COVID-19 and behavioral and mental health.

Give us a ring. If you are feeling stressed or need some help, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone – we are here for you. You can call or text the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline if you feel like you might hurt yourself at 208-398-4357, or the division’s crisis line at 208-788-3596 for English, or 208-578-4114 for bilingual. Both are available 24-7.

Coming soon…COVID Help Now: Under a grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the department will be standing up the COVID Help Now line. Staffed 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. seven days a week, crisis counselors will assist anyone in need by identifying local area resources, recommending on-line resources and connecting callers with community behavioral health resources. Complimenting the COVID Help Now will be seven regional crisis community resource specialists, one in each of Idaho’s seven local public health districts,  to serve as boots-on-the ground during these trying times. We anticipate having these services available to Idahoans by mid-July. Please check the  COVID-19 Behavioral Health Information web page for updated information.   

All challenges bring opportunity. Regardless of when it ends, this pandemic will shape and define our lives for decades to come. We have the opportunity now to work together to come out of this stronger, healthier, more compassionate and knowledgeable, and with the ability to better define what is central to individual and collective happiness.

Stay in touch – share your ideas, concerns, and vision of what you need and how you find joy in the midst of a pandemic by emailing  BehavioralHealth@dhw.idaho.gov

Let’s never stop Idaho.You inspire us, and we are here for you.

Danielle Pere is a bureau chief in the Division of Behavioral Health and oversees the programs and operations of the Central Office in Boise.

One thought on “Let’s never stop, Idaho! New programs and services offer behavioral health assistance during the pandemic

  1. Deborah Nelson

    Today, from the CDC website: “Based on death certificate data, the percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia, influenza or COVID-19 (PIC) decreased from 9.0% during week 25 to 5.9% during week 26, representing the tenth week of a declining percentage of deaths due to PIC.” Only five senior citizens have died in the past 3 1/2 weeks in the entire State of Idaho. There is no reason to decrease everyone’s, especially children’s, oxygen levels just try to prevent herd immunity. NO MANDATORY MASKS!

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