Opinion

Legislative Column

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

There’s no doubt COVID-19 has taken a toll on Missourians, and almost no one is immune. Even if we have not contracted the virus, we’ve all felt its effects. Businesses have shut down and employees have been sent home. Schools closed and parents found themselves responsible for their children’s education. We’re cooped up and can’t do many of the things we enjoy. We turn on the news and see hospitals overwhelmed in large cities. Each day, we hear reports of new COVID-19 cases and we watch the death count rise. The masks that so many people wear remind us we are in the midst of a pandemic. We wonder if we’ll catch the virus, and worry we could unknowingly pass it along to another person.

All of this weighs on us. COVID-19 has dominated our lives for more than three months, and now we hear the pandemic may continue. The fear and uncertainty is troublesome, and our well-being suffers. We tell ourselves we’ll get through this and it will be alright. Sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes we need to talk to someone.

If you find yourself overwhelmed in the age of the coronavirus, help is available. Two dozen Community Mental Health Centers throughout Missouri offer support for residents who are emotionally troubled by the pandemic. Crisis counselors are standing by to help Missourians cope with the stress and emotional strain of the COVID-19 crisis.

The Show Me Hope Crisis Counseling Program has previously provided help to Missourians in the aftermath of natural disasters, such as floods and tornados. Recently, a $2.7 million grant from FEMA will allow the Missouri Department of Mental Health to expand this free counseling service for those coping with the coronavirus crisis. Services will primarily be provided over the phone or by using virtual technology. All contacts are confidential and anonymous. Counselors will not classify, label or diagnose people. No records or case files will be kept.

The goal of the Show Me Hope program is to help participants understand their current situation, develop coping strategies and assess recovery options. Counselors will work to reduce stress, provide emotional support and connect callers with local resources as appropriate. The program may be all many of us need when we feel overwhelmed.

Residents of the 33rd Senatorial District can find help through one of three local mental health services providers. Southeast MO Behavioral Health provides counseling for residents of Douglas, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Texas and Wright counties. You can reach them at 573-756-5749. Ripley County residents should contact the Family Counseling Center at 573-888-5925. For help in Webster County, call Burrell Behavioral Health at 417-761-5000.

Citizens may also call the Disaster Distress Helpline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-985-5990 to connect with free, confidential and multilingual support services. If you prefer, you can send a text message to 66746 and connect with counselors at “TalkWithUs.” These services, administered by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, also provide help for those coping with natural disasters and incidents of mass violence, as well as drug and alcohol issues.

Missourians are strong and resilient, but all of us need a little help sometimes. That’s especially true these days, as we face unprecedented upheavals in our lives. This pandemic is something none of us have ever experienced and there’s no shame in turning to others for help coping with the new normal. I encourage anyone struggling with COVID-19 or the changes it wrought to avail themselves of these critical services.

It is my great honor to represent the citizens of the 33rd Senatorial District. Although the Legislature has adjourned for 2020, I remain your senator throughout the year. If there’s anything that I can do to assist you, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at 573-751-1882.