CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Helping hands were available to West Virginians struggling in all kinds of ways during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re still finding resources for people,” reported Jeremy Smith, outreach coordinator for First Choice Services.
First Choice Services runs the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and the HELP4WV Addiction Hotline via 1-844-HELP-4WV, Help4WV.com which continued to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Addiction doesn’t really ever stop or slow down so we’ve been able to stay in service and we’ve been able to help all those folks just as we normally would,” Smith said.
HELP4WV typically averages more than 900 requests every month.
“A lot of folks that are just fresh out of a treatment program, they really need to be connected. They really need to be part of a network of other people and it makes it harder right now with what everybody’s going through,” Smith said.
In response, HELP4WV has retooled its peer recovery support program and made four peer recovery coaches, who had traditionally run support groups or met face-to-face with clients, available for daily checks either by phone or via telehealth methods at no cost.
Overall, “There have been changes across the state as far as some residential programs. There may be a little bit of waitlist now and some of the folks that are already in those programs are just staying put for the next couple of weeks,” Smith said.
“But we’ve still been able to place everybody.”
Smith said calls have been steady to both the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the HELP4WV Addiction Hotline during the pandemic while there have been call increases to another First Choice Services helpline called West Virginia Navigator.
West Virginia Navigator is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1-844-WV-CARES or ACAnavigator.com for people who may have lost their jobs and need other health insurance options, either through Medicaid or the exchange for private insurance.
First Choice Services also assists with 211, in partnership with the United Way, providing financial, domestic, health and disaster-related information.
Smith said calls to 211 have increased dramatically in recent weeks.
“We want to make sure people know that we’re still here and that we’re still going to be able to help everybody out there,” Smith said.
Additional behavioral health resources were available for the duration of the pandemic through the coronavirus information page from the state Department of Health and Human Resources.