As Idaho rebounds from pandemic, effects on mental health, substance use remain

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. More than a year after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Idaho has reached Stage 4 of the Idaho Rebounds reopening guidelines, Idahoans are still struggling from stress and feel overwhelmed by the trauma that the pandemic brought.

A survey of adults conducted in 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed nearly double the rates of self-reported behavioral health symptoms than would have been expected before the pandemic, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, including:

  • 31 percent of respondents reported symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • 13 percent reported having started or increased substance use
  • 26 percent reported stress-related symptoms
  • 11 percent reported having serious thoughts of suicide in the past 30 days

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Division of Behavioral Health provides a range of services for eligible people struggling with mental illness or addiction (substance use disorder) issues, including specific programs for people impacted directly or indirectly by the pandemic.

Crisis services: There are crisis centers in every region of the state that can help adults who feel they may be having a behavioral health crisis. Behavioral health crisis centers screen and assess visitors 24/7, provide brief intervention and stabilization for mental health and substance use issues, and refer visitors to appropriate community resources to follow-up.

Each of the division’s regional offices also provide a 24-hour crisis line that people of all ages can call for help when in crisis. Links to the crisis lines and Crisis Center information are available on the Behavioral Health Crisis Resources webpage.

Addiction treatment resources: The division also provides outpatient and inpatient treatment, as well as recovery support services like safe and sober housing, recovery coaching, and drug testing for Idahoans struggling with the disease of addiction. Anyone looking for help can receive a confidential screening and eligibility determination by calling 1-800-922-3406, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. (MDT), Monday  through Friday.

Nine community-based Recovery Community Centers are also located around the state, with additional satellite offices, to provide no-cost assistance to people who want to seek community-level support and help with their addictions from peers with lived experience.

Children’s mental health: The division’s Children’s Mental Health program and partners are developing a children’s mental health system of care called Youth Empowerment Services (YES). YES provides an array of services to all youth with serious emotional disturbance, even those who are not eligible for Medicaid. In addition, the division’s regional Children’s Mental Health offices can aid youth and their families in connecting with available and appropriate services and supports. Find your path to youth services on the Children’s Behavioral Health page.

COVID-19 Behavioral Health resources: A number of resources are available through the division for people struggling with stress, mental health concerns, or addiction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Counseling assistance is available for frontline workers and a COVID Help Now line is available seven days a week to provide confidential emotional support and connection to resources for anyone struggling with the stressors of the pandemic. A team of resource specialists is also available as part of the Idaho Strong campaign to provide outreach and engagement to communities across the state. Read more about COVID-19 Behavioral Health resources.

Want to know more?

The division regularly communicates information about general behavioral health services and news, Youth Empowerment Services, and COVID-19 Behavioral Health resources through its three public newsletters. Anyone can sign up for any of the newsletters, which are distributed on either a monthly or quarterly basis, and you can choose to unsubscribe at any time.

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

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