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'Warmline' created to assist those in need amid pandemic stress

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Posted at 4:44 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 20:06:37-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Over the past year now, a group of counselors has been providing support to Virginians facing challenges brought on or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shortly after the pandemic began, there was a highlighted need for more behavioral health help.

"We were seeing a lot of people in panic mode," Kristen Tully, the Deputy Program Director for Virginia COPES, said.

Due to the increased need for mental health assistance, the Virginia COPES "warmline" was started

"We are here to help support people before they get to the point of being in an emotional crisis," Sadie Meadows, a Crisis Counseling Team Lead for the Virginia Association of Community Services Board, said.

Created in May 2020 using a federal grant, a team of 12, including Meadows, have fielded nearly 3,200 calls.

"We have dealt with the gamut of human emotion," Meadows said.

Deputy Director Kristen Tully said the types of calls have changed throughout the pandemic. In the first few months, calls were about unemployment, rent assistance and substance abuse.

"In August, we saw an increase of elder adults calling about loneliness and isolation as well as increased calls about where to find a COVID testing site," Tully said.

The busiest time for the team was during the start of vaccinations, helping people find them. Since then, Tully said that it has shifted towards mental health calls.

"People that need to be connected to more long-term services or realized during this pandemic, as we are hitting that anniversary that, you know, I thought that this anxiety feeling for me would go away and it's not," Tully said.

Tully said they received another round of funding to run until December and says they'll change focus over that time to more community building and in-person services to help people prepare for society reopening.

"We still believe our program is a staple and needs to be promoted because there's obviously still a need in the community and we are here to help," Tully said.

If you or someone you know could benefit from the warmline, it's tollfree to call or text at 877-349-6428 and runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.