‘It’s the difference between a good day and a bad day’: Hotline helps those mentally impacted by pandemic

Emergency Management Director Craig Camidge and says coping with COVID-19 related stress could...
Emergency Management Director Craig Camidge and says coping with COVID-19 related stress could just be a phone call away with the VA C.O.P.E.S. Warmline.(NBC12)
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 1:34 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - During this period of living in isolation from the pandemic, it can be tough to manage stress, especially when there are fewer people around to talk to. It’s caused the Department of Behavioral Health to launch a free crisis counseling hotline for anyone impacted by COVID-19.

“A hotline is something you use for an immediate need emergency. Think 911, but our Warmline is somewhat different,” said Office of Emergency Management Director Craig Camidge. “Seven days a week, an individual who’s not experiencing an immediate crisis can pick up the phone call or text our Warmline operators and find somebody to talk to about the stresses and challenges that come with COVID-19 on top of everything else.”

The call line was created by Virginia C.O.P.E.S. which stands for compassionate, optimistic, person-centered, empowering support. Warmline is a joint venture between the Department of Behavioral Services and the Department of Emergency Management. Camidge said the program was made possible through a federal program with the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration.

“Even if you’re managing everything well sometimes that one additional piece and now it’s on top of you,” said Camidge. “Our stakeholders are Virginians and they’re some of Virginia’s most vulnerable populations.”

Warmline can be used to provide peer support, to help you identify coping strategies, local area resources, and support groups, allow you to vent without bias, all to support you and your mental health.

“Enough Virginians have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 that Virginia qualified for this program and the partnerships between DBHDS and VADEM helped to make that reality,” said Camidge.

A further partnership between the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards and Mental Health America Virginia partnered with DBHDS to help make the call line a reality in May.

“One of the things that our Warmline operators are trained in is active or even reflective listening,” said Camidge. “Somebody to talk to who’s going to listen to you non-judgementally... who’s not going to push back on any of your feelings and is truly only on the other end of the line to help you... it’s the difference between a good day and a bad day.”

Warmline operators can connect callers with resources like food banks, housing and even COVID-19 testing.

“We have the ability to make referrals to more in-depth resources if a caller says needed clinical behavioral health assistance or even medical assistance,” said Camidge.

A Warmline is not a hotline, which is for individuals in need of emergency services. If you are in crisis, please call the National Crisis Hotlines 1-800-273-8255, or 911.

If you think you could benefit from the Warmline, you can call the service at 877-349-6428. For more information on the services, VA C.O.P.E.S. provides click HERE.

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