The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services received a grant to create the VA COPES program, offering free support to all residents who are stressed or struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.
“The warm line supports those struggling with trauma, grief and distress caused by COVID-19,” according to a recent news release announcing the new program. “Unlike services such as 9-1-1 that are reserved for emergencies, a warm line provides someone experiencing behavioral health issues with an easy way to discuss daily struggles.”
You are not alone! If you are feeling overwhelmed by #COVID19, social distancing, and all the stress and anxiety that comes with it, call or text VA COPES at 877-349-6428. Trained crisis counselors are available seven days a week, Monday-Friday 9am-9pm, Saturday-Sunday 5pm-9pm. pic.twitter.com/Fj4w3yMuBL
— Virginia DBHDS (@VirginiaDBHDS) September 18, 2020
DBHDS has partnered with Mental Health America of Virginia to provide support for residents and refer people to other resources.
“Anyone in Virginia struggling with the stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation and grief brought on by COVID-19 can benefit from talking to one of VA COPES trained crisis counselors,” DBHDS Communications Director Lauren Cunningham wrote in an email. “Unlike a hotline, VA COPES does not serve as a crisis line, and crisis calls are referred out to partner agencies such as local Community Service Boards.”
For those experiencing “a mental health emergency,” callers are encouraged to call 911, head to the emergency room, contact their local CSB hotline or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-784-2433, Cunningham said.
“VA COPES has the ability to assess calls that initially do not come in as crisis calls but then though conversation become elevated in need and refer and/or warm transfer the caller directly to crisis services that can support the caller,” she added.
The people who answer the warm line and help callers are not licensed counselors.
But they are trained from SAMHSA, learning how to help callers with “positive adaptive coping skills” and problem solving to “produce a sense of hope and resiliency,” she said.
Counselors also have “professional developing opportunities” and weekly staff training to show them how to deal with diverse, lonely and callers in a domestic abusive relationship.
Most questions people are asking include how to manage their anxiety or depression regarding the coronavirus pandemic and how to cope with feelings of loneliness and isolation, Cunningham wrote.
“Counselors are able to connect callers with additional behavioral health resources as well as referrals to relevant agencies that provide unemployment, food support, emergency utility and rent information, to name a few,” she wrote. “As VA COPES is primarily a resource for individuals experiencing behavioral health issues, if a caller had a question about current public health guidelines, they would be referred to the Virginia Department of Health.”
The primarily purpose of the warm line is not to give advice but to listen by providing emotional support.
The VA COPES warm line is 877- 349-6428 and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
You can text or call the warm line. Bilingual crisis counselors are available Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
For more information or DBHDS’ resources, visit the DBHDS’s website here.
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