Massachusetts launches new crisis counseling assistance program; 16 more deaths reported

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BOSTON (WPRI/AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker announced the creation of a new crisis counseling assistance program Tuesday afternoon, which aims to provide support for Massachusetts residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new program, MassSupport, is funded through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The crisis counseling will be provided by Riverside Community Care through a contract with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.

“Just as our team has helped people heal after critical incidents including the Boston Marathon bombing, we are prepared to offer resources, strategies, and comfort – as together, we face the effects of the pandemic,” Riverside Founder and CEO Scott Bock said.

MassSupport will start off assisting the Mass 211 call center and will eventually deploy outreach counselors and clinicians to provide Psychological First Aid in the form of education and counseling related to the pandemic. The counselors and clinicians will also assess high-risk individuals for mental health referrals.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted individuals’ mental health in different ways,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said. “This crisis counseling assistance program is another way that people experiencing stress, fear, isolation and loneliness can connect with professional mental health support.”

The future of the program will include crisis counseling for the lasting effects of the pandemic, community education on coping with ongoing stress and building emotional resilience and assistance for people applying for services to relieve crisis-related burdens.

“The extraordinary challenges that the people of Massachusetts have faced over the last few months have been stressful for so many in various ways,” Baker said. “This crisis counseling assistance program will be another available resource for those who may need it, and we encourage anyone who is in need to call to receive crisis support.”

Baker also announced Tuesday that about 2.5% of those checked last week at dozens of pop-up facilities opened for demonstrators have tested positive for the coronavirus. Public health officials worried the protests could give the coronavirus a chance to spread. Approximately 17,600 were tested.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported Tuesday the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 rose to 953 compared to the 920 reported Monday. State health officials also reported 16 additional COVID-19-related deaths, along with an additional 229 cases.

Residents who want to reach MassSupport can call (888) 215-4920. Counseling is available in both English and Spanish. For more information on the program email masssupport@riversidecc.org or visit the website at www.masssupport.org.

In May, Baker announced the creation of mass.gov/CopingDuringCOVID, a site with tips and resources to cope with isolation.

The Massachusetts Network of Care is another resource that’s available to residents. It’s a searchable online directory on behavioral health services and treatment.

Visit www.mass.gov/covid19 for the latest information, call 211 with questions, and text “COVIDMA” to 888-777 to subscribe to text-alert updates.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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