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Wolf Administration Reminds Pennsylvanians of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Resources During the Holiday Season

12/22/2021

Harrisburg, PA - Today, members of the Wolf Administration reminded Pennsylvanians of available resources during the holiday season for individuals and families affected by mental health and substance use disorders (SUD).

The departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), Health (DOH), Human Services (DHS), Aging (PDA), and the Governor’s Office of Advocacy and Reform joined to reinforce the Wolf Administration’s commitment to highlighting trauma-informed mental health and substance use disorder services and resources that are available year-round but often increasingly needed during the holiday season.

“This is a joyous time of year, but it can also be a difficult time of year for many Pennsylvanians for many different reasons. During this holiday season, it is important to remind folks who are struggling with grief, anxiety, isolation or battling a substance use disorder that no one is ever alone; there are always resources available to help,” said DDAP Secretary Jen Smith. “I urge all Pennsylvanians to offer their support to a friend or loved one who may need the courage to seek the help and resources they need and deserve.”

Pennsylvania’s Mental Health Resources Guide offers information related to mental health screenings, finding a mental health professional, locating a SUD treatment provider, resources for housing insecurity, help with trauma due to racism, and assistance with contacting your county assistance offices and applying for benefits.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provide free and confidential emotional support, in English and Spanish, to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A localized text option is also available via the Crisis Text Line, offering free 24/7 support by texting “PA” to 741741.

Public Assistance Programs

DHS encourages Pennsylvanians struggling to meet basic needs to apply for programs that can help them meet essential needs through the winter months. Programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), cash assistance, Medical Assistance, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and other programs can be applied for at any time at www.compass.state.pa.us. For more information assistance programs available to help Pennsylvanians, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.

“The holidays are here, and while this can be a joyous time for so many, the ongoing pandemic continues to take a toll in different ways, particularly as we once again find COVID-19 cases surging. Many of us are dealing with change, loss, extensive burnout, and stress. Please know that if you are going through hard times, you do not have to carry these feelings alone,” said DHS Acting Secretary Meg Snead. “These services exist to help us get through difficult times – please let them help you, or share them with someone you love who needs a hand.”

Support and Referral Helpline

Free resources are available to assist Pennsylvanians with mental health needs and connect to longer term support in their community. Pennsylvanians struggling with anxiety and other mental health challenges can contact the Support & Referral Helpline toll-free, 24/7 at 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600. Helpline staff are trained to be accessible, culturally competent, and skilled at assisting people with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, co-occurring disorders, other special needs, or someone just looking for a supportive, empathetic person to listen. Staff are trained in trauma-informed care to listen, assess needs, triage calls, and provide appropriate referral to community resources for children, teens, adults and special populations, including historically marginalized groups and longer term behavioral health supports.

“The holiday season comes with expectations of joy and happiness, but that is not everyone’s experience with this time of year. Perhaps this year especially, the need to be trauma-informed throughout the holidays is critical. 2021 has been a time of great stress, fear, and grief for so many,” said Dan Jurman, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Advocacy and Reform. “We want to encourage Pennsylvania residents to be mindful of additional holiday stressors and potentially difficult sensitivities from past and present experiences that can have a deep and pervasive impact on people this season.”

Get Help Now Hotline

Individuals seeking substance use treatment or recovery resources for themselves or a loved one can call the toll-free PA Get Help Now helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This helpline is confidential, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and staffed by trained professionals who will connect callers to resources in their community. Callers can also be connected with funding if they need help paying for treatment. A live chat option is also available online or via text message at 717-216-0905 for those seeking help who may not be comfortable speaking to a helpline operator.

“The hotline is available every day, including Christmas Eve and Day and New Year’s Eve and Day,” said Smith. “Please don’t hesitate to reach out and use this helpline. Whether you are in recovery, seeking treatment for the first time, or need information on how you can help or support a loved one’s journey, there is always someone at the other end of the line to help you navigate through available resources throughout the holiday season and beyond.”

Naloxone

Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an overdose caused by an opioid drug (i.e. prescription pain medication or heroin). When administered during an overdose, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing. A standing order by Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson provides quick access to the medication, as Pennsylvanians can obtain naloxone at local pharmacies across the commonwealth. People can also get naloxone mailed to their home when completing a short training through a partnership with NEXT Distro.

“Training in the use of naloxone can be completed in minutes and administering naloxone is safe and does not require specialized medical knowledge,” Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said. “We are committed to ensure equal access to treatment, including naloxone at pharmacies, regardless of where you live, because we know that substance use disorder impacts all communities. Today, Pennsylvanians who are at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose, or who are family members, friends or other people in a position to assist a person at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose, are able to obtain naloxone at their local pharmacy now due to the standing order from the department of health.”

Resources for Older Adults

The PA Link to Aging and Disability Resource Centers, also known as the PA Link, assists older adults and individuals with disabilities by providing information and connecting them to supports including assistive technology to access telehealth services, check-in calls and options to help reduce social isolation. Any older adult needing support can contact the PA Link Call Center by phone at 1-800-753-8827 or online at www.carelink.pa.gov.

In addition, Pennsylvania’s 52 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), covering the commonwealth’s 67 counties, provide virtual and in-person activities, including health and wellness programs. Older adults can locate their local area agency on aging here.

“Older adults who are feeling depressed or isolated could experience a decline in their physical well-being and quality of life. The Department of Aging and our network of AAAs are committed to helping Pennsylvania seniors maintain good mental and physical health. During the holiday season, if any older adult is struggling emotionally or mentally, we want them to understand that they are not alone, and that there are many resources to support them. These can range from engaging with a caring voice on the other end of a phone call to congregating safely – either in-person or virtually – with like-minded individuals for socializing and participating in activities. I encourage any senior who may benefit from these resources to please reach out to us,” said Secretary of Aging Robert Torres.

DHS and PDA also want grandparents raising grandchildren as well as other family members such as, aunts, uncles, and cousins, who find themselves caring for children who lost parents or whose parents are not able to be their primary caregiver to know that help is available via the KinConnector helpline. The helpline is staffed by Kinship Navigators – compassionate, knowledgeable social service professionals prepared to help families locate, understand, and access resources that may be able to help them during the holiday season. It can be reached by calling 1-866-KIN-2111 (1-866-546-2111) or online at kinconnector.org.

For more information on mental health and SUD treatment options in Pennsylvania, county-based resources, and the Wolf Administration’s efforts to connect individuals with mental and emotional support and to local resources, visit pa.gov/mental-health.

MEDIA CONTACT: Ali Gantz - ra-dapressoffice@pa.gov

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