It’s no wonder that, with a once-in-a-century pandemic and a season of destructive wildfires, some Lincoln County residents find themselves unnerved and struggling to cope.
Those who have historically navigated stress and anxiety are discovering that the economic and social concerns presented by the unforeseen events of 2020 could overpower them without help. That’s where the CORE team comes in.
Thanks to a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Lincoln Community Health Center’s Behavioral Health Program has formed a Community Outreach and Recovery Education (CORE) team.
Shelby Houston, a mental health outreach worker, is leading the newly-formed response team that will help residents navigate the mental health impacts of both COVID-19 and wildfires.
“We are finding that there are people in need of help, but not everybody wants or needs ongoing support. We are here to help them get through this unusual situation with short-term mental health assistance so they can build their own resilience,” she explained.
For the duration of the FEMA grant, Houston and four of her fellow mental health staff members are committed to connecting people to community resources and strengthening natural support systems.
“We are seeing our community needs change,” Houston said. “This CORE team is made up of community members who know the resources, and the people, and what it means to live here during these times.”
Jodie Pereira is the perfect example. A member of the CORE team, Jodie is also a parent who knows first-hand of the extra challenges presented by the pandemic.
“We are trying to provide some validation to those who are struggling. Even as a parent myself, trying to navigate working and making sure that my kids are handling schoolwork involves a lot more responsibility than it used to. It is stressful and difficult to balance it all,” she commented.
One of the ways in which the team is hoping to help is by providing weekly group sessions via Go To Meeting video conferencing. Starting in January, adults can attend sessions on developing coping strategies, how to lessen anxiety, healthy forms of distraction and self-care, creating connections, and other helpful skills. Groups are scheduled to begin in English on Jan. 7 and in Spanish on Jan. 8.
These programs will be free of charge, requiring no payment nor insurance information. Depending upon the participant’s preferences, CORE may collect very little personal information from the individual, other than an email address to which they can send the meeting link.
“For those who might be nervous about group environments, people can always call in to listen and participate as well or they can turn off their camera,” Houston explained.
For those unfamiliar with online meetings, the team can also provide one-on-one training to prepare participants for the sessions.
“If you want to do the group, but you don’t know how to manage the technology, we will arrange to have an outreach worker call you and work through the process by doing a practice one-on-one video,” she noted.
Wildfire survivors have an additional opportunity to speak with a CORE member weekdays (except Wednesdays) from 12-3pm at the Salmon River Grange Hall.
In addition to these organized activities, CORE can also respond to individual questions or needs.
“We are encouraging people to reach out to us if they are struggling with uncomfortable emotions or are feeling overwhelmed or just need help figuring out what their options are,” Houston said. “We are really trying to be a central point for those who don’t know where to get help or who are struggling.”
Individuals are invited to call 541-265-0403 and leave a voicemail message. Callers can expect a response within one business day. Emailing the team is another option. Mention “CORE Team” in the subject line when sending a request via LincolnCoCallCenter@co.lincoln.or.us and a response can be expected within two business days.
“It is important to understand that we aren’t a crisis hotline. If someone has an emergency, we encourage them to call 911 or, for a mental health crisis, call 866-266-0288. But to get help finding resources or making a local connection, we can help,” Houston said.
For Pereira, who will focus on outreach involving kids, working with other interested parties is a big part of what will make the program successful.
“I think what will make this helpful is our community partners coming together and helping to get the word out that we are here, and we are a free service. We hope to connect with kids and families through the schools and through groups like Neighbors for Kids, the Olalla Center, and other community partners.”