In a March 26 press briefing, Gov. Mike Parson and Missouri Department of Mental Health Director Mark Stringer emphasized the importance of mental health during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We realize this is a challenging, uncertain time for Missouri and the nation,” Parson said. “Mental health is something everyone should focus on not just right now, but going forward as Missourians continue to cope with the after-effects of COVID-19. We’re going to get through this together, but we have to take care of ourselves mentally and physically.”
The Department of Mental Health (DMH) serves people of all ages with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. The department serves about 170,000 people a year through both institutions and community programs.
In response to COVID-19, DMH has taken a number of steps to ensure its services continue with as little disruption as possible.
The department has worked with partners across state government to make it possible for community providers to do much of their work by telephone, rather than the traditional face-to-face requirement. Service providers have also dramatically increased their use of telehealth, and DMH is exploring ways to stay in touch with people who cannot afford cell phones or extra minutes.
For psychiatric hospitals and rehabilitation centers, DMH has worked with other state departments to share best practices, policies, and procedures during times of crisis. Public visitation is temporarily suspended at all DMH facilities and offices statewide.
For Missourians struggling to cope with this pandemic, the federal Disaster Distress Helpline (800-985-5990) is an important resource. It is staffed with mental health professionals who can talk with callers and, if the callers need more help than they can provide, connect them with services in the state.
Specifically, they can connect callers with the Access Crisis Intervention (ACI) system. This system is staffed with professionals linked to state certified mental health and substance use disorder services. The ACI system is free and completely confidential.
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