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‘There’s a lot of things happening right now:’ Fresno County is starting the mental health conversation

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FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, health departments have been getting swamped with calls related to mental health.

Director of Behavioral Health for Fresno County Dawan Utecht said the increase of calls meant they had to address people’s needs.

“There’s a lot of things happening right now that are increasing individuals’ anxiety, fears, and depression and that relates to a number of things,” said Utecht. 

Utecht said it’s things like social isolation, economic impacts from unemployment, and a general fear of contracting the virus.

“The virus itself appears to have a harsher impact on people of color and that is very much a concern to us both from a public health perspective but also in terms of mental health awareness so actually our department put out a cultural awareness guide,” said Utecht.

Utecht said that’s when they created a warm line phone number to listen to people’s concerns and direct them to the right care.

Deputy Director of Clinical Operations for the Department of Behavioral Health Susan Holt said starting the conversation about mental health is just as important as physical health. 

“Just like physical health conditions when we have a mental health symptom or a mental health condition there is treatment and help available. So, we need to be able to have to conversation just as we would any physical health condition,” said Holt.

Holt said their warm line has been a huge success across all backgrounds and social-economic status. 

“We have been able to rapidly implement what we call tele-health which is video-based treatment services. From assessment, therapy, case management, psychiatry services,” said Holt. 

For more information on the warm line call 559-600-9276.

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