Although the Enterprise Recovery Center (ERC) is closed at this time, our site manager, Darcy Woodall, and peer support staff, Jennifer Carter, are keeping office hours daily. This is in part because many unhoused people in crisis are still showing up at the center since it’s a respite they know and trust. The two team members are able to provide appropriate referrals and crisis intervention, working to ensure that people who come are not a threat to themselves or others.
During the course of the pandemic, they have helped to transport individuals to the hospital for non-COVID health emergencies. Some may not have made it there on their own. Recently, they coordinated with the county’s Adult Case Management, our agency’s own Community Alternative Response Engagement (CARE) Team doing outreach and coordination, and the local police to have a client who was experiencing a mental health crisis transported to the hospital’s crisis stabilization unit. This was someone they had been dealing with for years, a woman who has been traditionally resistant to services and usually manages to mask her symptoms. The work is hard and can take a lot out of staff. We are grateful for the difference they are making!
The Warm Line: Emotional Support
As soon as the ERC team understood that it would be necessary to close, they began to think about how best to continue offering mental and emotional support to community. With some focused effort, the agency launched extended hours for the Warm Line the day the statewide shelter-in-place order was released. Peer staff were redeployed, offering 9am to midnight service. Even though this was not publicized in advance, people wanting to connect immediately began to call. Many expressed acute anxiety around how they would manage the disruptions to daily routines and needed recovery tools and assets, including mental health doctors. Some have asked for information about available resources such as food banks.
In the past week alone, the incredible Warm Line peer support staff have fielded over 150 calls. There are a lot of callers still concerned about the pandemic. Many people check in daily and some several times a day to just feel companionship. Callers express relief and gratitude that they are able to reach out for support; to hear a human voice. As one staff member shared:
People are having a hard time staying indoors. One group home has very strict rules about people going out which was distressing for the clients that live there. Some people are worried that they will contract the virus. While these difficulties exist people in general are trying not to panic and stay positive. Also, callers are looking for more information about the Coronavirus. One lady is concerned because she is still going to work and feels vulnerable.
Additionally, many people do not have (due to limited financial resources) either cable or Internet service and have a hard time accessing reliable information. People who struggle with psychosis (particularly auditory hallucinations) are finding it more difficult to cope with the intense isolation. It is clear to ERC staff and to callers that the impacts of the isolation would be much worse without access to the Warm Line.
The agency has also installed a second phone line in order to create a Spanish Language Warm Line. We are working on staffing this right now, looking into extended partnerships with other nonprofit organizations in the county.
While the expansion of the Warm Line was the right solution, its impact and success is only because of the dedication, empathy, and wisdom of the staff and volunteers who have been unfailingly heroic, patient, and compassionate. To all, we are grateful and proud of your commitment in community!