Among the ripple effects of COVID-19 is the psychological strain of isolation. While Arlington works to combat the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, the county is also launching initiatives to address the mental impact.
“We have a lot going on in terms of mental health programs and supports as we navigate through coronavirus,” said Kurt Larrick, assistant director of Arlington’s Department of Human Services.
Larrick said coronavirus has forced the DHS to adapt to new methods of checking in and helping those in need. Therapy and case management are being provided via telehealth tools. Day programs, like Clarendon House, Arlington Weaves, and Arlington Adult Day Program, cannot meet in person so staff is checking in with clients on a daily or weekly basis, Larrick said.
“We just started to pilot a friendly caller program (staring with Meals on Wheels recipients) where we get callers to check in on individuals in the program to help combat loneliness and isolation,” Larrick said. “Since Meals on Wheels switched to weekly deliveries instead of daily deliveries, there isn’t as much interpersonal interaction for people in the program. The friendly caller program addresses this issue.”
Larrick also said DHS has also started Monday-Thursday free online meditation for clients.
For the general public, Larrick said Arlington County has put together a new webpage devoted to connecting people to mental wellness resources and self-care tips during the pandemic. That’s in addition to the county’s updated “Get Help Guide.“
“At DHS we haven’t really shut down at all, instead switching to the Assistance from a Distance model to continue to serve clients,” Larrick said. “We have implemented a number of new techniques to stay connected with people and adjusted programs as needed. For people who were facing challenges before COVID — whether that’s employment, food, housing, health, anxiety, substance use, or other behavioral health issues — it’s been an even greater challenge during the pandemic.”
Larrick said people should feel free to call the Arlington Behavioral Healthcare Services Emergency Line at 703-228-5160 or the Children’s Behavioral Healthcare Outpatient Services at 703-228-1560 to seek help.
“We are working hard to support community members and encourage everyone to reach out to friends, family, loved ones, co-workers, neighbors, etc. (safely, of course) to stay connected and remind people that while they may be physically distant, they are not alone,” Larrick said. “For those who need us, we are open and ready to help.”
(As Published on Arlington Now, image from Sciline.org)