~ by Trevor Phipps ~
Ever since the coronavirus pandemic struck and self-isolation orders were initiated worldwide, experts have noted an increase in mental health problems including depression and anxiety.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation Poll, almost half of the Americans surveyed said that the pandemic is harming their mental health. A federal emergency hotline for emotionally distressed people received a 1,000 percent increase in calls last April than it did in the same month in 2019.
Locally, according to Special Kids Special Families (SKSF) Assistant Executive Director Maria Berger, the pandemic has caused an increase in certain mental health issues. “People are feeling pretty lonely and that’s something we did not see before,” Berger said. “People want to reach out just to have somebody to talk with. So, depression has increased and levels of anxiety have increased especially for the senior citizen population because they are considered high-risk individuals. One of the common symptoms of depression is that people feel pretty lonely and pretty sad. They want to just talk to somebody and have human contact.”
In September of last year, SKSF started providing a number of behavioral health services to residents in El Paso, Teller and Park Counties. The organization can help individuals that have Medicaid, Cigna, or those who wish to self-pay with a wide array of mental health related services.
“We offer counseling and specialized therapy to change behaviors, thoughts, emotions and how people see and understand situations,” a flier on the organization’s behavioral health services said. “Our behavioral health team will consider your physical, behavioral and emotional aspects of your health and help determine a course of action that is best for you. Age specific therapy and evaluation is applied to patients. We offer this service to ages four through adulthood.”
Anyone who may need mental health services can have a telephone, tele-video or in-person meeting where they talk with a professional about the specific problems they are facing. SKSF can then provide diagnostic clinical evaluations and mental health screenings. The organization also offers other forms of on-going treatment including individual or group therapy, respite services, home-based intervention services and co-occurring treatments that deal with mental health and substance abuse issues.
SKSF also is one of the only organizations that can offer services to residents in the area who speak Spanish. “What we want to stress in Teller and Park counties is that this service exists,” SKSF Development and Communications Manager Jon Karroll said.
“It’s for anyone age four through senior, with or without disabilities. We can provide individual and family therapy, clinical evaluations and mental health screenings in English and Spanish. Therapy can be done via tele-health so they don’t have to come to Colorado Springs.”
And from now through June 30 SKSF can start offering their services free of charge to the senior citizen population if they don’t have insurance or if their insurance doesn’t cover behavior health.
“Right now, due to COVID-19 we have some funds to provide free services to people 60 and older if they are isolated,” Berger said. “We can do clinical assessments, we can provide individual therapy, family therapy, group therapy, case management and coordinated care for people in El Paso, Teller, and Park Counties.”
According to the SKSF website, the behavioral health program’s mission is “To achieve optimal social and emotional well-being of the individual with a foundation of compassion and quality care.” Anyone seeking behavioral health services or evaluations is asked to call or e-mail Maria Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org or (719) 471-3184 to schedule an appointment.