Cough. Fever. Difficulty breathing. These are some of the symptoms that are associated with the coronavirus. However, a Texoma community partner is looking to treat an aspect of the disease that can affect even those who never contract it — the mental health component.
Officials with the Texoma Community Center announced that it is applying for a $220,000 grant that will allow the center to provide counseling services in response to COVID-19.
“I think for the biggest concern for us is after this virus, right now we are already seeing an increase in calls and the second wave of the virus we are going to have to address as a local community are the mental health effects, and that is going to last for years beyond what the virus is going to do physically,” TCC CEO Diana Cantu said Monday.
The grant that TCC is pursuing is offered through the Texas Disaster Behavioral Group of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Through the grant, Cantu said the center will be able to provide mental health services and counseling to those affect by the disease in Grayson, Fannin and Cooke Counties. In many cases, this will extend beyond the traditional clientele of the center.
In recent days, Cantu said the center has already started receiving calls with people experiencing a variety of mental health conditions ranging from depression to anxiety and worries.
“With this situation, we are already beginning to see, as a local mental health authority, an increase in calls,” TCC CEO Diana Cantu said. “People are quarantined and you are seeing levels of anxiety begin to rise. You see depression because, once again, you have routine changes. ...They are fearful because they don’t know what is going to happen. There are a lot of mental health issues that arise from situations like this.
Previously, similar grants have been used to fund relief following both man-made and natural disasters, including a shooting in an El Paso Walmart that claimed the lives of 22 people.
Locally, similar grants have been used in Texoma following Hurricane Katrina, when many people from Louisiana came to the region seeking shelter.
In the lead-up to the grant, Cantu said the center has set up a hotline number in conjunction with other mental health providers across the state, including those in Harris County and the Meadows Mental Health Foundation.
In some cases, the center has been able to assist with services. In situations where another agency or organization is better suited, the center has been redirecting calls.
The grant would cover media and public service announcement costs, the salaries for new counselors and the hotline expenses, Cantu said.
While the focus will be on the center’s three-county service area, Cantu said there could be some oppotunities to assist others. Of the 39 centers in Texas, 30 are expected to apply for this grant. Notably, Denton County is not expected to apply, she said.
The majority of the applicants likely will receive the grant. Those that do not likely did not show creativity in their application and approach to providing mental health support during a disaster.
“Traditionally this grant has been done face-to-face, you develop groups you develop counseling that you can do with families,” Cantu said. “Now we are having to fall in that social distancing umbrella. We have to find a way to provide services through teleservices.”
These counseling services would continue for about six months to a year after the crisis has resolved, Cantu said. If additional resources are needed, the grant can be extended.
“Say this situation has been settled by early summer,” she said. “You will see us working with people who have been impacted for at at least six months to a year, depending on the need.”
In some cases, the counseling could lead to an increase in the center’s traditional services.
“We are starting to see calls of people getting concerned,” Cantu said. “We are starting to see a lot of anxiety, we are seeing people call about being depressed.”
I think the anxiety in particular is with people who were laid off, or losing their jobs. You have a lot of people who fear for their health and their family.”
In particular, Cantu said the ongoing crisis can have a long-lasting impact on children who are disrupted.
“You are going to see a lot of kids that are traumatized, so there are going to be a lot of services we are going to have to provide for kids who were raised in this situation,” she said. “They saw a disruption of their schooling, and for a lot of kids, their school is their safe zone.”
If you feel you are having a mental health crisis, please call the 24-hour TCC crisis hotline at 1-877-277-2226.
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at email@example.com.