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Get to Know Lyndon Goodley

amanda@bigbuzzideagroup.com : June 16, 2020 11:54 am : Blog

Lyndon Goodley is a Family-to-Family teacher with NAMI Champaign. Learn why he encourages dads, not just moms, of those living with a mental illness to take Family-to-Family.

Lyndon, you have a daughter who lives with Bipolar Disorder. How is she doing now?

My oldest daughter has been living with Bipolar Disorder for over 4 years now. She lives in another state, works two jobs, uses public transportation and for the most part is managing well enough. She is not on medication and not interested in trying meds at this point. She is showing a willingness to talk to someone (i.e., a counselor, etc.) and acknowledges that she is living with a mental health condition. She maintains communications with at least someone in our family, usually several times a week, but sometimes it can extend a week or so between our conversations.

As a father to a daughter with a mental illness, what do you find to be your biggest challenges?

My biggest challenge (still) is not rushing in to try to fix things but to only provide guidance and occasional financial support when she asks me to do so. It is that really letting go and trusting God to work with my daughter in due time. I am finding that when it comes to fixing things, I take the “Less is More” approach – it gives her a chance to “figure it out” for herself.

As a Family-to-Family teacher for NAMI Champaign, you’ve probably noticed that while there are a lot of moms in the classes, dads are in the minority. Why do you think that’s the case?

Not sure I have an answer for that. Family dynamics are so different in each family. Perhaps it is just that fathers, in general, dealt with emotional issues differently than mothers. It might be a pride thing, in that fathers (like me) think we are “supposed to fix family problems” and when you can’t fix mental illness, it can be a bitter pill to swallow. It can be cultural, as well. Growing up in my family, we never talked about mental health issues – ever! As I have learned more through teaching the Family-to-Family course, I realized that mental health conditions were present but not recognized. I shared with my own counselor that until my daughter developed Bipolar Disorder, I thought of mental illness as the “Easter Bunny” – something one hears about but never actually sees.

What would you tell a father to encourage him to be part of Family-to-Family?

Quite simply, if you really want to help your loved one living with mental illness then 1) don’t blame yourself, your loved one, or anyone else; and 2) get some help. Family-to-Family can provide you with vital information and critical skills to help you interact effectively and compassionately with your loved one. It also provides the opportunity to speak with and learn from other fathers who are going through the same thing that you are. Family-to-Family was instrumental to our growth as a family in interacting, accepting, and continuing to love our daughter as a whole person.

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Men’s Mental Health Month: Addressing Male Stereotypes

amanda@bigbuzzideagroup.com : June 16, 2020 10:50 am : Blog

Mid adult Hispanic male veteran gestures as he discusses something during a veterans group meeting in a community center.

 

Let us be the first to wish you a happy and healthy Father’s Day! 

Fittingly, June is Men’s Mental Health Month, which is no simple topic to tackle. Today, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. is affected by mental illness, which includes more than 6 million men each year. And yet, many men do not seek help or treatment for disorders like depression or anxiety. 

Boys Don’t Cry

Mental health organizations like NAMI have made strides in the education and conversation around mental health to reduce stigma, but stereotypical expectations of the tough male persona still exist. This can deter seeking help or treatment.

Many men are still taught from an early age to “be strong” and hold back emotions, which can damage coping skills and the ability to process emotions. Additionally, men often struggle to connect on an emotional level since vulnerability is discouraged. Because people around them are less likely to be supportive, they keep quiet, or if they do speak up, they suffer additional trauma when friends are not responsive.

There are other reasons why depression in men is underreported. First, because emotional articulation is not valued in the traditional male role, talking about what is wrong is often more difficult. Lacking adequate tools to talk through what they are dealing with compounds feelings of failure, adds distress to their experience and can make determining accurate diagnoses more difficult.

Symptoms of Depression in Men

It is important to recognize that depression often presents different symptoms in men than it does in women. Instead of sadness, men often experience:

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in typical activities

The Danger of Stereotypes

The months of April through June are actually particularly high risk for suicide, so it is an especially important time to check in with friends and loved ones. Suicide is the #2 cause of death in men under age 44, with rates on the rise for middle-aged men. Overall, men account for 70% of all suicides. It is critical to break the cycle of silence for today’s youth and to continue to educate men in our communities about the causes and dangers of untreated depression.

Depression is not caused by weakness or a lack of determination. It is often a combination of brain function, such as mood regulation, paired with other factors such as medical conditions, high levels of stress or medications. 

Men often get caught in a frustrating dichotomy: The behaviors driven by depression can lead to strife that impacts both their personal and professional lives. However, that vulnerability can also lead to social isolation, a perception of losing their standing or have professional ramifications as well.

What We Can Do

We have the opportunity every day to continue to fight stigma. We can cultivate an environment for our sons that allows their emotional growth to flourish. We must check in on the men in our lives with open and honest dialogue, and encourage them to talk about their emotional and mental well-being. We can encourage healthy habits that support good mental health including, sleep, exercise and proper nutrition. We can ensure they have information about resources available and offer to accompany them. We can follow up. 

In our communities, we can advocate for better access to mental health resources, including confidential workplace services.

Need Support?

If you need or someone you know needs help, there are resources available:

  • Talk with your doctor.
  • Ask your employer about assistance programs.
  • Consider a NAMI support group for those living with mental disorders and their loved ones.

Contact the NAMI HelpLine, which offers peer support and resource referrals: 1-800-950-6264.

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Summer Parenting: Coronavirus and Safety

amanda@bigbuzzideagroup.com : June 16, 2020 10:19 am : Blog

Family enjoying a bike trip during COVID-19 pandemic

Illinois has entered Phase 3 of its reopening plan, with some surrounding states well ahead of our schedule. That means certain activities including small gatherings are now acceptable and non-essential workers are cleared to head back to work. With so much evolving information, what is safe for our families this summer?

Consider Your Physical and Mental Health

Of course, one of the most important factors for deciding how far to venture this summer with your family is to consider your health, both physical and mental. As summer kicks off, many will relax their efforts, will reduce their use of masks, and move beyond expected protocols for Illinois’ recovery phase. If you or someone in your family is at high risk, it remains important to continue to take precautions, including wearing masks in public spaces, limiting trips to stores, and practicing physical distancing as venues become more crowded.

Make sure to consider your mental health. Are you feeling isolated? Gatherings of ten people or less are currently permitted, so you can plan that playdate with neighbors while taking steps to reduce risks. Does venturing out accompany increased anxiety? It is perfectly okay to continue to use your grocery delivery service or talk to your employer about precautions during this time. The past several months have been particularly stressful and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy to your summer activities. Go at your own pace.

Check Your Sources

It is important to keep in mind that there is still a lot of information that we don’t know. For example, there were initially hopes that warm weather and sunlight would slow the spread of the virus. However, it is still transmittable, as we can see from spikes in cases in warm-climate states that opened earlier than Illinois.

To make sure you are working with the latest and most accurate information, utilize a variety of information sources. Some good resources include:

Plan Your Camps and Activities

Illinois summer camps vary widely. Although start dates were moved back, many park districts and activity centers have announced registration for activities with new procedures in place, including smaller groups. Other organizations have found creative ways to offer virtual camps about everything from coding to fashion. 

While the Chicago Lakefront has not reopened yet, some suburban beaches are already accessible. Because restrictions and reopening timelines vary, make sure to check the current status online before heading out. 

As for summer swimming, there are limitations. Because the concern lies with interaction between swimmers and not transmission through water, some centers still plan to hold swim lessons even if public pool access is closed for the season. 

Get Social

Current guidelines require that social gatherings be capped at ten people. If Illinois cases continue to stabilize and decline, that cap will move to 50 people when Phase 4 begins. In the meantime, consensus remains that getting outdoors lowers your risk—so take advantage of the warm weather. Activities like hiking, a backyard picnic, and a family bike ride can all make for a fun summer! You can still gather with another family or two for those 4th of July festivities.

Travel

Ready to hit the road? The CDC has a good list of considerations if you plan to travel this summer. Make sure to review the spread of COVID-19 in the area where you are visiting and the health of your companions. Additionally, you will want to research whether the attractions you plan to visit will be open. If you stay at a hotel, consider skipping public use hot spots like the fitness center or pack groceries to avoid crowded restaurants. Perhaps consider a road trip with another family to a rental home where exposure is more limited.

While we aren’t back to business as usual, Phase 3 still allows for summer fun while staying healthy—and opportunities to explore some areas typically off the beaten path. Enjoy!

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Preserving Your Mental Health: Utilizing All the Tools in the Toolbox

amanda@bigbuzzideagroup.com : May 19, 2020 10:12 am : Blog

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as physical distancing continues, it is more important than ever to keep tabs on your own mental health and to check in with loved ones.

From fear over health or employment concerns to searching for relief from life’s daily social pressures – and everything in between – how people are coping may vary widely. Regardless of your circumstances, now is a great time to check in on your mental health toolbox and consider which coping resources are most effective for you.

What is a Mental Health Toolbox?

Simply put, your toolbox is a set of activities and resources that support your mental health. Because everyone’s mind and body respond differently to stress, what is effective for you may not be the same as what works for a family member or friend. 

Here are some common tools you can utilize, and how they may look for different people.

Talk

One of the most common staples in the mental health arsenal, talking is an important way we connect with others, express our need for help, and relieve the pressure of what is on our minds. This can take place through a number of channels:

Friend or Peer: A casual conversation with a friend or colleague can reduce feelings of isolation or help identify resources.

Mental Health Professional: A mental health service provider can be an objective listener while helping you to build your coping mechanisms.

Support groups: For those who prefer a group setting to talk through issues and concerns, NAMI Illinois continues to offer support groups virtually during COVID-19.

Writing: For some, simply getting thoughts out by writing an email or letter is enough to provide relief.

Exercise for Mind and Body

Meditation and exercise can both alleviate negative moods and reduce anxiety and depression.

Meditation or Prayer: Meant to focus your mind and instill calm, meditation and prayer are effective tools for many. There are a variety of free apps and websites that offer guided resources.

Music: Listening to music or playing an instrument can also provide mental focus, help you process emotions and provide a sense of calm.

Exercise: Research has shown that exercise can reduce the impact of a variety of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety and ADHD. It relaxes muscles, provides the opportunity to focus on breathing, releases endorphins and improves sleep.

Simple Movement: If a rigorous workout isn’t your thing, the benefits of a walk outside, stretching and yoga can be just as powerful. Anytime you have the opportunity to reduce muscle tension, get blood flowing and focus on a singular activity can elevate your mood.

Relax and Recharge

What can be considered relaxing varies widely from person to person. While this is just a small sampling, using a combination of strategies like these can keep you energized and promote positive thinking.

Find a Quiet Space: This might be your bedroom, basement, under a tree outside or even just a corner with noise cancelling headphones or white noise playing. Regardless of what your space looks like, giving yourself a break from external demands is particularly important.

Extra Rest: Snooze your alarm, take a power nap or just close your eyes in a dark room. During stressful times, we crave extra rest so make sure to listen to your body. Skipping a few chores around home is okay, too!

Escape into a Good Story: Reading, watching a favorite movie or series or even viewing a favorite YouTube channel can all offer the opportunity to escape into someone else’s story. This can be a chance to recharge and also to process emotions through a different medium.

Pursue a Hobby: Hobbies can offer stress relief in several different ways. Some use parts of our brain that we don’t often utilize, such as someone with an analytical job enjoying a creative hobby like painting or writing. Other activities provide the ability to focus on something repetitive to calm and soothe, like woodworking or knitting.

Support Others

One of the best ways to improve mood and outlook is to connect with your community and help others. While some activities are limited during COVID-19, there are still plenty of ways you can support those around you.

Send a Card or Treat: Whether writing to a friend or sending meals to local  first responders, sending a treat is a great way to brighten someone’s day.

Mentor Someone: There are a variety of youth, community and corporate mentoring programs, many of which continue to run remotely. Consider what you’re passionate about and what skills you have to offer, and look up organizations in your area. For example, a local college or vocational school might be looking for adults to assist with readying students for job searches and interviews. Local shelters and at-risk organizations need volunteers to help with budgeting and life skills. 

Collect Supplies: Many organizations are in need of supplies for both people and pets. Look up their wish lists and put together some care packages.

Get Crafty: What do you like to make? Charities and hospitals seek a number of items, including blankets, caps and gowns for NICU babies, face masks and toys. If you love to use your hands, there are plenty of options to choose from!

More than anything, do your best to carve out time for yourself. You may find that your typical go-to activities don’t have the same impact right now, so don’t be afraid to add some new tools to your own kit. 

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Support the Well-Being of Your Children: Parenting Tips for Challenging Times

amanda@bigbuzzideagroup.com : May 19, 2020 10:11 am : Blog

As the stay-at-home order continues in Illinois, parents are juggling a variety of roles, tackling both work and personal responsibilities, acting as teachers, and seeking new ways to access support services during an extended period of uncertainty.

In NAMI’s recent Ask the Expert Webinar, Dr. Meghan Walls, a pediatric psychologist, provided a framework for supporting children of all ages during physical distancing. Most importantly, extending some extra grace to both kids and ourselves is paramount. The following are a few recommendations that can cultivate a positive environment for everyone.

Keep Dialogue Open

Family meetings are a useful way to check in with everyone. While the depth of information shared will vary by the age of your children, open communication can alleviate the concerns and anxiety kids may be feeling. The goal is to ask questions to ensure you are aware of issues and concerns while providing useful information and support. Focus on three areas of discussion:

What’s Going on in the House? Are people working at home, or is someone newly unemployed? Are some family members essential workers? What school and extracurricular activities are taking place virtually? 

What Are the Stressors? This can vary widely by age. A younger child may miss a fun class or playgroups. Adolescents and teens may have questions about seeing a boyfriend or girlfriend, or concerns about missing sports or school milestones. It is okay for kids to know that there may be pressure on parents as well.

What Are the Expectations? Making sure everyone understands the responsibilities of all family members is the best way to set up success.

While as parents we cannot “fix” some of the losses our children are experiencing during this time, we can reassure them that this is temporary. It may be awhile before things feel “normal” but there will be opportunity to slowly expand our circles.

Routine is Key

Keeping a familiar structure provides a sense of security and familiarity – and don’t worry if your schedule isn’t straight from Pinterest. While the schedules floating around our social channels can be a good starting point for some families, Dr. Walls noted that parents should keep reasonable expectations. 

Sleep Schedules: Try to keep bedtimes within an hour or two of normal. In the morning, use an alarm or wake kids up within a similar timeframe as well.

Meals: Do your best to maintain healthy eating habits, including consistent meal times. Just like we need to keep healthy sleep habits, it is important to make sure parents and kids alike are still eating at regular intervals throughout the day.

School and Chores: Create a consistent daily schedule to support required schoolwork and encourage engagement. However, be flexible. Just as adults struggle at times with productivity, it is unrealistic to expect kids to sit for long periods working.

Build in Rewards: Provide breaks for a favorite activity and time to move. For younger children, rewards might also include stickers or treats, while older kids may prefer extra screen time or opportunities to call friends.

Seek Opportunities for Socialization

While physical distancing is necessary, we still want to provide opportunities for social interactions. Thankfully, many organizations have pivoted to provide activities virtually. A local sports team may be holding remote workouts at scheduled times. Some Scout troops and school clubs are meeting online. If formal opportunities aren’t in place, how could your child and friends create their own?

Consider what social media tools might be appropriate for kids to interact, or offer access to other online game or video platforms. Recognize that even adolescents may have difficulty establishing contact, so talk through ways to stay connected.

Don’t Sweat the Screens

While we don’t want to go overboard, it is okay if your kids are spending some extra time in front of a screen these days. Between schoolwork, socialization and time needed to complete your own work, online time is going to be higher than normal.

If you do see your children struggling with their mental health, reach out for support. NAMI Illinois, mental health providers, and other like-minded organizations are providing virtual and telehealth services during this pandemic.

Looking for more? You can access the webinar and transcript here.

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Running an Affiliate During a Pandemic

amanda@bigbuzzideagroup.com : May 18, 2020 12:00 pm : Blog

Teena Mackey, President of NAMI Will-Grundy for the past 6 years, is seeing firsthand the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on NAMI affiliates. She shares her observations here.

As the leader of NAMI Will-Grundy, what changes have you seen since the advent of the Coronavirus?

Initially, as a result of the shelter-in-place order our calls for support actually diminished; the tendency to isolate is a typical reaction to the triggers of symptoms of mental illness, so the directive to stay at home was accomplished fairly easily and individuals generally reported “I’m okay, I feel safe here at home.” 

As time goes on, however, the pitfalls of isolation have begun to occur. Individuals report loneliness, increased anxiety and racing thoughts that include a concern of “What if this goes on for months? What’s going to happen to me?” Usually people can reach out and attend a peer support group, but at this time we are limited to phone calls and online support groups. While this new style of support is helpful, becoming online “savvy” in and of itself can be intimidating and a trigger to anxiety.

Additionally, we are finding that many of those who participate in our peer support groups lack the technology to effectively participate on a zoom platform. Many have the “government phone” which does not support video, and a vast number cannot afford laptop computers and the cable access needed to support them.   

At NAMI Will-Grundy, we are eager to help consumers get the technology they need. We sort of take for granted that everyone has a computer and Wi-Fi access and we are finding that this is not the case.  

You are also a Family Support Group facilitator and have transitioned to co-leading groups online. What adjustments did you have to make in the online environment?

The topics do not differ much, but the anxiety that stems from a feeling of having a lack of control over your life occurs much more often. People are unsure if and when this COVID-19 pandemic will end, and there is constant fear about their loved ones becoming ill and dying OR of their isolation triggering a suicide attempt.

Body language and facial communication is such an important part of communication and these can be more difficult to read in the online format. It also becomes more incumbent on me as the facilitator to make sure that one or two people do not dominate the discussion and to make certain that everyone gets a chance to participate. This can be a bit more of a challenge in the online effort.   

I find that we need to be particularly patient with the process! Folks are joining support from their homes and tend to be a little less formal than if they are getting dressed and leaving home to venture out into the community; smoking and eating while talking are much more common than in an in-person experience! But that’s okay – it’s just good that they’re there.

As you look to the not-too-distant future, what impact do you think COVID-19 will have in how NAMI affiliates will operate?

I think that there will continue to be an online support group effort. As we become more comfortable with the use of the technology, the online option can continue to serve individuals diagnosed with a mental illness and their families/caretakers who, for whatever reason, are unable to attend an in-person support group. We’ll now have another way to meet people where they’re at.

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Mental Wellness in Stressful Times – Resources & Support

amanda@bigbuzzideagroup.com : May 18, 2020 12:00 pm : Blog

NAMI Resources

Illinois Resources

  • Illinois Call4Calm Text Line: If you or a loved one are struggling with stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic and need emotional support, text TALK to 552020 for English or HABLAR for Spanish. This service is free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People seeking assistance will remain anonymous and will provide only their first name and zip code, which enables the service to link you to a counselor in your area who is knowledgeable about available local resources.
  • Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline: Available via text or call daily at 877-863-6338.
  • Illinois Helpline for Opioids & Other Substances: If you or someone you know is suffering from an opioid use disorder or other substance use disorders, call the Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances at 1-833-2FINDHELP to speak with a trained professional for support and advice or to be directed to customized resources or visit HelplineIL.org.
  • Illinois Warm Line: If you or one of you family members has mental health and/or substance use challenges and would like to receive support by phone, call the Illinois Warm Line at 866-359-7953. Wellness Support Specialists are professionals who have experienced mental health and/or substance use recovery in their own lives. They are trained in recovery support, mentoring, and advocacy and are ready to listen and support you. The Warm Line is not a crisis hotline, but is a source of support as you recover or help a family member to recover.  Hours of Operation: Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm except holidays

National Resources

  • CARES Line (24 hour): If your child is a risk to themselves or others, having a mental health crisis, or if you would like a referral to services for children, youth, and families, call the 24 hour Crisis and Referral Entry Services (CARES) line to talk to a mental health professional. Call: 1 (800) 345-9049 TTY: 1 (773) 523-4504
  • Crisis Text Line: The Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, 24-hours a day. Text NAMI to: 741741. Trained crisis counselors will respond and help you.
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline (24 hour): If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis, you may call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255). Caring staff will connect you with the closest possible crisis center in your area.
  • National Helpline | SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Free and confidential treatment referral and information service available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. 1-800-622-4357 (HELP)
  • National Runaway Safeline: This 24-hour 7 day a week national Safeline is for youth at risk of running away or already have and are looking for help. 1-800-Runaway (786-2929) or text: 66008
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) Helpline: 800-662-4357 or 800-958-5990
  • Veteran’s Crisis Line: To reach caring, qualified responders within the Department of Veterans Affairs connect with the Veterans Crisis Line. Many of them are Veterans themselves. This free support is confidential, available 24/7, and serves all veterans, service members, National Guard and Reserve, and their families and friends. Call 1-800-273-8255 or Text: 838255, Support for deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889. Online Chat is Available: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
  • We Know The Feeling (Problem Gambling): If you or someone you know is suffering from gambling disorder, call 1.800.GAMBLER, text ILGAMB TO 53342, or visit weknowthefeeling.org to be connected to resources and treatment programs

Source: http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=123539

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Get to Know Samantha Herrell

amanda@bigbuzzideagroup.com : April 14, 2020 12:54 pm : Blog

Meet Samantha Herrell, a facilitator of NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group who is now facilitating online support groups for NAMI in Illinois. In addition to her work with Connection, Samantha is an In Our Own Voice presenter and Board of Directors member at NAMI Mid-Central Illinois.

Recently, Samantha participated in a virtual interview with NAMI Illinois to share some of her insights on being a volunteer for NAMI.

How easy or difficult was it to move from leading a group in-person to being an online facilitator?
Online facilitating seems like the difficulties are found in things that are outside of our control: the technology. Slow internet (or at moments, lack thereof) and helping others figure out how to work things at their end have caused a few delays. Everyone in my group at the time has been very patient and understanding, using humor to help while my internet has its tantrum. Nothing else has been difficult about the group. It’s a great way to keep up with each other.

What makes an online group different from an in-person one?
I think the online group has to be a lot more controlled. We can only see a fraction of what is going on with a person. We cannot see body language or control who else is in the room. We can ask and set guidelines, and the rest is trusting that they are being followed.

What would you tell someone who has never come to a group regarding Connection groups?
Most things are worth trying at least once. I would recommend sitting in, even if you don’t feel like speaking. Encourage a friend or family member to participate with you. I believe it to be a rewarding experience. I’ve met people through NAMI who I’ve been friends with for years. You never know where your next connection could stem from.

What is the benefit of that support group?
Support groups are a chance for people to become connected to another person and see that we are not alone in our battles, and we can improve ourselves and those around us by continuing to better ourselves. Support Groups are not about changing someone’s behaviors or making them talk about all the trauma they’ve experienced. It’s a way to have help in building a base to talk about mental health at your own pace.

What do you like most about being a Connection facilitator?
When I first started, I loved that I was doing this with friends. Some of the people that are the dearest to my heart are facilitators or are on the board with my local NAMI. I loved being able to help our community together. Now, not only did I gain that experience, but I believe facilitating helps me maintain peace with my own mental illness.

What are the challenges of being a facilitator?
Some challenges I have faced before are as simple as having a bad episode on a day where I’m supposed to facilitate. The question arises: Do I push myself or do I ask for help? I have people that could help me but they won’t know that I’m not okay today if I don’t reach out. However, if I’m not doing well, being at group is most likely the best place for me to be. Connections is a program run by peers. While I am the professional at the table, I’m still human.

How are you taking care of yourself right now?
Since I am still working, I haven’t been concerned about being ‘bored.’ I think not being able to go anywhere has allowed me to save money and that feels great. I’ve been visiting with my brother often at safe distances and doing a lot of gaming with online friends. With us being quarantined, I don’t even have to feel guilty about it.

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A Message from Illinois Department of Human Services about COVID-19 Shelter in Place and Homeless Services

amanda@bigbuzzideagroup.com : March 23, 2020 4:19 pm : Blog

Dear Partners,

Today, Governor Pritzker issued a Shelter in Place Executive Order that will go into effect tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. I want to share with you what this means for IDHS and our community partners and to provide some guidance for your organizations. Further, we are pleased to announce additional resources that IDHS will deploy across the state to ensure the health and safety of people who are experiencing homeless.

Illinois’ Shelter in Place Order does not alter the current operations, budget principles, or any of the recent guidance that you have received from IDHS Divisions and programs.

Our Division Directors and their staff may be sending out additional information in light of the new Shelter In Place Order. However, the Order is not intended to amend the current practices of IDHS programs and services. IDHS programs and services are covered under Essential Services that include Human Services Operations and Health Care Operations.

As a reminder, IDHS has temporarily closed its on-site local Rehabilitation Services’ (DRS) offices and scaled down staffing levels at its on-site Family and Community Resource Center (FCRCs) local offices to align with the health and safety guidance by public health officials. Services are still available.

Finally, I am pleased to share that IDHS is making $6 million available throughout the state for isolation housing for people experiencing homelessness through local Continuums of Care. IDHS is also increasing existing homeless service providers’ funding by 5% to increase capacity during this crisis.

We continue to welcome feedback from our provider community and encourage comments, questions, or concerns to be sent to COVID19@illinois.gov.

More information about COVID-19 is available at CoronaVirus.Illinois.Gov and through the COVID-19 Hotline, at 1-800-889-3931.

Thank you, again, for all that you do.

Sincerely,

Grace B. Hou
Secretary, IDHS

Illinois Department of Human Services | dhs.illinois.gov

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Contact Your State Senator About COVID-19

amanda@bigbuzzideagroup.com : March 20, 2020 12:18 pm : Blog

As the Senate considers much-needed COVID-19 relief, please urge your Senators to ensure people affected by mental illness can maintain their treatment, get health and mental health coverage, have access to safe housing, and are supported by the nonprofits they trust and depend on.

We need you to ask your U.S. Senators to do 4 things:

1. Remove barriers to mental health treatment. People need ways to manage existing mental health conditions and maintain mental wellness while reducing their exposure to the coronavirus. To do this, Congress should:

  • Eliminate all barriers to widely implementing telehealth in all public and private health plans and encourage all health plans to provide extended supplies and/or mail order refills of prescriptions. Both actions will help people with mental illness avoid the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Approve funding for Emergency Response Grants at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to assist states in continuing to provide treatment for people with mental health conditions and substance use disorders.

2. Promote coverage for health and mental health care. People with mental health conditions are often uninsured or face barriers to getting needed treatment and supports. These challenges are even greater during a crisis. To address this, Congress should:

  • Immediately launch a special enrollment period for commercial health insurance in the Marketplace (HealthCare.gov) to make sure people have access to affordable, quality health care coverage.
  • Require the use of “presumptive eligibility,” which allows certain providers like hospitals and clinics to enroll people in Medicaid that they believe meet eligibility criteria.
  • Ensure free COVID-19 testing and treatment for everyone, including people who are uninsured.

3. Ensure safe housing for people with severe mental illness. Many people with severe mental illness experience homelessness or housing insecurity and are uniquely vulnerable to being exposed to the virus and outbreaks in shelters or encampments. With the loss of steady income, many more individuals are also at risk of losing housing. Congress must act by:

  • Providing $5 billion to serve people who are homeless and help them stay safe and healthy during this emergency.
  • Approving an additional $5 billion to provide rapid rehousing for people who are at immediate risk of becoming homeless and funding for rental assistance to help low-income renters weather this crisis.
  • Putting a temporary stop on evictions to ensure that renters and homeowners maintain stable housing during this crisis.

4. Support nonprofits’ capacity to serve. The economic impact of this crisis will also touch charitable organizations like NAMI organizations and our partners. Nonprofits need support to meet greater demand and fill important gaps during this time. To assist, Congress should:

  • Provide targeted assistance to 501(c)3 organizations to help them keep their doors open during this crisis and offer paid leave to their employees.

Your Senators need to hear from you TODAY. Please contact them now to ensure people with mental illness are helped in their response to COVID-19.

Together, we can ensure that no one in our community is left behind.

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