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Initiative Expands Mental Health Services During The Pandemic

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Paul Tuthill

         A new initiative has launched in western Massachusetts to respond to the soaring mental health issues brought about by the pandemic.

        With the help of $20,000 from the city of Springfield, the Mental Health Association (MHA) is starting a program at the organization’s outpatient clinic to provide a range of services to people without insurance.

      "As we know in light of the coronavirus, there has been an increase of people with anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions," said Alane Burgess, director of the MHA’s Bestlife Clinic in Springfield. 

        She said the initiative called “Wellness Without Walls” is intended for people who have recently lost their health insurance coverage because of unemployment, or have deductibles they can no longer afford.

                The clinic treat adults and children.  There is individual and family counseling available, psychiatric care, and substance abuse treatment.

                Burgess said the clinic is using tele-medicine for all its appointments.

       "There is no wait for an appointment," said Burgess.

                Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno praised the work of the MHA.

       " We wanted to give a helping hand to the Mental Health Association for the great work they do," said Sarno. "They are unsung heroes."

                Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said during the pandemic people need to pay attention to both their physical and mental well-being.

       "The trauma caused by this virus is unprecedented," said Caulton-Harris.

                The funds the city gave to the initiative came from the federal Community Development Block Grant program.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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