State COVID-19 hotline now provides free emotional support services

    Ken Coleman photo

    The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is using federal grant program funds to provide free emotional support counseling via its COVID-19 hotline. 

    The hotline service, available at any time, is provided through the DHHS Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration (BHDDA) and Michigan State Police. 

    All callers to the hotline can speak to a Michigan Stay Well counselor. The counselors have received specialized training through the disaster assistance branch of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). They are not licensed, but are trained on how to provide emotional support to residents in disaster zones, per a news release. A disaster was declared in Michigan in late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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    “Because of COVID-19, many of us are grappling with strong emotions, including anxiety, depression and fear,” said DHHS Director Robert Gordon. “We want Michiganders to know it is OK to have these feelings – and OK to ask for help. You don’t have to carry this burden alone.” 

    Debra Pinals, DHHS medical director for behavioral health, said counselors are also available to give callers referrals to mental health agencies or other support services.

    “Emerging or lingering anxiety, distress, irritability and loss of hope are important feelings to recognize in ourselves and others, and it can help to talk to someone,” Pinals said. 

    Per DHHS, counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Users can reach a counselor by dialing 888-535-6136 and pressing 8. DHHS will also maintain the state’s general COVID-19 questions hotline during business hours Monday through Friday.

    Translation services are available for non-English speakers if needed. 

    C.J. Moore
    C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She studies environment journalism and film at Michigan State University.