Washtenaw County Community Mental Health’s essential services

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| 2 min read | by Lonnie Huhman, lhuhman@thesuntimesnews.com |

Providing essential services is what Washtenaw County Community Mental Health is all about.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, these services are needed just as much as ever as people have seen life get altered in various ways. The question of mental health is an important one. There are various areas where people might need support and care right now.

This is where Washtenaw County Community Mental Health comes in, even during these challenging times.

One way the county agency has done is increase its use of telehealth to continue to serve its existing clients including youth, families, and adults in community settings and congregate living facilities. WCCMH said its doing more phone outreach and support coordination, but less in person contacts.

However, CMH is continuing to provide daily medication drops and telephone outreach to clients with more significant needs.

In talking about its mental health services for county residents during the pandemic, WCCMH said its 24/7 CARES line, which was expanded with funding from the Washtenaw County Public Safety and Mental Health Preservation Millage in 2019, is fully staffed.

For county residents looking for links to mental health resources in the community or at this county agency, WCCMH has lists and lists of resources to help with a broad range of needs including food and housing. It emphasizes, one does not need to be experiencing a severe mental health crisis to call 734-544-3050

WCCMH said nurses are working with behavioral health specialists at the service sites across Washtenaw County, and their psychiatrists are using telemedicine to provide psychiatric evaluations and medication reviews.

In talking with Lisa Gentz, a program administrator for WCCMH, about the current situation she said, “Of course, the pandemic is putting pressure on individuals and families across the county.”

“We’re seeing the impact of social isolation in all the work we do, and especially in some of the work our crisis team is doing, and our youth and family services team is doing,” Gentz said.

However, she said, “on a positive note, we’re really seeing how much telehealth is removing people’s barriers to engaging in services. We usually have a pretty high ‘no show’ rate for our psychiatric appointments–but we’re seeing a decrease in no shows and an increase in engagement.”

WCCMH is also offering a series of Facebook live events to share evidence-based strategies for mitigating the impact of social isolation and other stressors that are coming to the forefront during this epidemic, Gentz said.

She said their first event on stress, grief, and self-care is at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 4. For those interested, they can like the WCCMH Facebook page and be notified about the next ones as they’re announced.

Noting internet access is a real issue in some areas of the county, Gentz said they have heard that several internet providers are offering free or reduced cost programs for low-income customers and households. She said Comcast’s “internet essentials program” is one option, or dial 2-1-1 to learn about other resources.

Gentz said probably the biggest thing they want to get out to county residents is that their CARES team is continuing to enroll new patients–and can work via telehealth–so call them at 734-544-3050.

“We’re still here; we are still working; we still have CARES and crisis team support and we are here to help,” Gentz said.

To learn more go to https://www.washtenaw.org/839/Community-Mental-Health or call 734-544-3050.