Nearly a year into a global pandemic, there have been innumerable admonitions for people to watch out for their mental health, but many don’t include a crucial step — how to get help.
A Grand Forks-based mental health treatment service is using a federal grant awarded this summer to both help those affected by COVID-19 and connect them with other resources. Agassiz Associates has created a program called COVID CARE targeted toward any adult in North Dakota who has been affected by COVID-19 and has concerns about their mental health and substance use. Health insurance is not required to access services.
Heidi Jensen, co-owner of Agassiz Associates, explained to the Williston Herald that part of the goal is to expand access to telehealth mental health services. Agassiz Associates moved entirely to telehealth in March 2020, in response to the pandemic.
But there is more to it than simply telehealth treatment.
“Let’s connect you with services in the area,” Jensen said.
Jana Theisen, COVID care manager for Agassiz Associates, said people have spent the last year struggling to survive, dealing with isolation, stress and financial problems. Many of them aren’t aware that help is out there or might not think they are eligible for treatment.
That’s led to fewer people using the services than she’d hoped.
“We know that there’s people out there that need to access the services,” Theisen told the Williston Herald.
The COVID CARE effort provides a list of services, including:
mental health treatment
substance use disorder treatments
help applying for health insurance
help getting connected to available resources
someone to talk with regarding your questions about available resources and services during COVID-19
That last part has required a lot of work, but has generated a lot of response. Theisen said she has been in contact with all of the Human Services zones in the state, as well as the state’s Division of Behavioral Health to develop a list of the resources and services available. A Facebook page for behavioral health providers has also shown the potential of the program.
“I’m amazed at the response,” Theisen said.
By addressing both treatment for urgent problems and connecting people with the resources they need for the future, it sets people up for success. After all, stress and financial uncertainty were problems for many before the pandemic hit. The extra stress just worsens things.
“It’s difficult to think straight,” Jensen said.