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March 06, 2021

COVID-19 and Your Mental Health

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March 2021 comes with many mixed emotions because it represents a year since COVID-19 really reached our community. Although vaccine distribution is a burst of optimism across the countryDr. Fauci and others think we need to be prepared for ongoing mask wearing and COVID-19’s intrusion in our lives into 2022. 

 We asked some of KC CARE’s Behavioral Health Staff what we can be doing to maintain our mental and behavioral health and emotional endurance during this challenging time when the pandemic continues to impact our daily lives.

What do you want our patients to know about caring for their own mental health?

Maryssa J., Behavioral Health Case Manager, says: BE KIND TO YOURSELF! Don’t expect to be 100% everyday—even without mental health struggles, no one is always 100%. Take time for you and enjoy it. Go for a walk, watch your favorite show and eat your favorite snacks, call a friend, take a bath—just overall be intentional with your self-care!  

Allison C., Behavioral Health Consultant, says: You are as deserving and worthy of receiving help as anyone else, despite how big or little your experiences may be. Improving your relationship with yourself by maintaining your physical and mental health makes you more resilient, helping you weather hard times and enjoy good ones. It also helps you support the people you love. 

What about caring for the mental health of their children?

 Maryssa J. says: I want parents and guardians to be aware that their kids feel the strain of a changing world, too. They have had to change how they do school—online is not for everyone. And they don’t get to see their friends as often. Be engaged. Ask your kids how they’re doing, if they need anything, or how you can help and be there for them.  

 You can read more on this topic from the Washington Post. 

What about caring for the mental health of other loves ones? What about older adults and seniors?  

Maryssa J. says: Write letters, send cards, deliver cookies and other goodies to their doorsteps, if you’re able. Zoom or FaceTime—just let others know they are important to you even in all this craziness that is our new world!  

Do you have recommendations  for patients experiencing increased stress or isolation? 

Whitney W., Therapist, says: The pandemic has created an environment where it’s so easy to feel isolated and/or increasingly stressed. When you notice yourself feeling increasingly stressed, I think the best kind of coping skill is to do something that brings you joy. Getting

 outside, listening to music that makes you feel good, preparing and eating a healthy meal, reading something enjoyable, and taking a nap are great ways to reduce stress. Don’t forget to make sure you’re drinking enough water and getting enough quality sleep! I also love doing a guided progressive muscle relaxation—there are tons of free resources on YouTube!

Combatting isolation is tough with the pandemic still happening. I like to use the term “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing.” We need to continue physical distancing with folks we don’t live with, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to connect with others and nurture our social relationships! Get creative with engaging with people—phone calls, walking outside with masks on, a physically distanced picnic, and playing board games or doing puzzles together online are great ways to stay connected to our loved ones.  

also encourage clients to reduce the amount of time they spend watching the news or engaging with social media, because although those things can feel connecting in the short term, they’ve been shown to increase feelings of isolation in the long term. 

What can our patients be doing each day to ensure they stay on top of their mental health? 

Maryssa Jsays: Be intentional with your time throughout the day. Schedule breaks, even if just for 5 minutes to get up, stretch, walk around, go outside to get some fresh air. Journaling or writing helps; jot down a couple things you’re thankful for each day and reflect on them at the end of the week or month. 

Allison C. says: To care for yourself, try to do the following: 

  • Maintain a daily routine, including showering and getting dressed. 
  • Take breaks from news, including social media. 
  • Eat healthy meals and stay hydrated. 
  • Exercise. 
  • Get plenty of sleep. 
  • Avoid use of drugs and alcohol. 
  • Stretch, breathe deeply, or meditate.

What resources does KC CARE have to help patients with their mental health? Is there availability across our services or are we experiencing longer waitlists?  

Malaki M., Behavioral Health Support Coordinator, says: KC CARE’s Behavioral Health Program works closely with the Primary Care Program. When fully staffed, the Behavioral Health Team includes a Psychiatrist who oversees daily activities, maintains a client caseload, and collaborates with our Physician Assistant and our Nurse Practitioner. Our Behavioral Health Nurse works diligently to address clients medication needs as efficiently as possible to prevent emergencies related to side effects and time-lapse between refills. We offer long-term and short-term individual therapy services.  

Our therapists can provide longterm support to childadolescent, and adult clients for a variety of situations, including drug and alcohol addiction or abuse. We support clients with both individual therapy as well as group therapy.  

Behavioral Health Support Coordinators are available Monday through Friday to provide crisis intervention and short-term support via phone, telehealth, or in-person options to all ages. Our Behavioral Health Hotline number is 816-908-2847. KC CARE’s Behavioral Health Team also includes Case Manager to assist client with needs such as housing, finances, documentation, medication, and appointment compliance, or just general support. For questions regarding behavioral health services or to schedule an appointment, please call 816-777-2722. 

Due to COVID19 and some recent staff turnover, the Behavioral Health Program is currently struggling to accommodate new clients for services. We are currently accepting new clients (ages 24 and under) only for medication management services. Medication management services for clients ages 25+ are evaluated and scheduled on a case-by-case basis, and we can provide other contacts in the KC area. We are currently referring therapy clients to other agencies in the KC area until the current vacant staff positions are filled. Our waitlist for therapy or psychiatry services is dependent on upcoming staff availability. Client scheduling continues to evolve based on provider availability and staff hires, so please do not hesitate to call 816-777-2722 to check availability.  

If you know someone who would be a great addition to our Behavioral Health Team, please view our current job postings. 

What should our patients know about behavioral health telehealth appointments and in-person appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Malaki M. says: As the world has changed with the COVID 19 pandemic, so has KC CARE’s Behavioral Health Program. Once limited to inperson visits only, we now provide telehealth appointments! We are currently offering a variety of appointment options including in person, telehealth, and phonecall sessions. (Phonecall sessions are per current state regulations and are being offered during the pandemic only.) However, telehealth services will not only remain an option, but will also continue to be enhanced to provide the best connections and services possible. The costs between phonecall, telehealth, and inperson visits will not vary. 

If a client does not have access to a phone or computer or has restrictions of availability, please contact the Behavioral Health Support Coordinator at 816-777-2722.  

What should a patient do if they or someone they know are experiencing an emergency or crisis behavioral health episode?  

Maryssa J. says: Stay calm, breathe (breathe with the person if it’s not you), and make a list of things, anything normal and easy to think about. Pick a theme and take turns naming something to put on the list. If it’s too intense to handle alone, call for help (a friend, Crisis Intervention Team with local police department, 911).  

For a crisis situation, call Rediscover at 816.965.1100 or text HOME to 741741 to reach their Crisis Text Line (which provides 24/7 free crisis counseling). Rediscover’s Crisis Center location (2600 E 12th St, 

Kansas City, MO 64217) is also open 24/7. 

What else do you want our patients to know?  

Tiffany Clinton, Behavioral Health Director, says: It’s important to seek help when you need it. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as being mindful and proactive with your physical health. Know and understand your triggers, be mindful of significant anniversary dates, and create social supports you can lean on during difficult times. There are caring, dedicated professionals available to assist with your needs. More importantly, community resources throughout our metropolitan areaspecializing in an array of mental health servicescan guide you to the most appropriate treatment options. If you’re unsure or apprehensive about who to contact, dial 2-1-1 or visit United Way’s resources online, and they can connect you to local resources. It’s always ok and never too late to ask for help.  

At KC CARE, we strive to care for the whole personmental and physical health. We hope these words from our Behavioral Health Team will have you continuing to wash your hands, wear your mask, reach out to your loved ones, and engage in self-care.