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Arkansas turns its focus on mental health during the coronavirus pandemic



Arkansas — With so many Arkansans struggling through this pandemic, mentally, emotionally and physically, the Arkansas Department of Human Services has teamed up with partners around the state in hopes of helping those in need.

The PPE program stands for Promoting Positive Emotions and was made especially for Arkansans impacted by COVID-19. It provides help that is just a phone call away.

The program provides free emotional and behavioral health services to anyone of any age who’s having a hard time right now due to the pandemic.

“That is our hope to just support anyone during what is a very stressful and trying time,” said Katie Neil, FEMA Team leader.

The program is possible because of a grant given by FEMA. Typically, grants given by FEMA are for a crisis such as natural disasters, but Neal says they’re having to handle this crisis project differently than they would others because of our current situation. She says they’ve had to get creative with how they help.

“So what we have is a call line where anyone in the state or Arkansas can call this call line and speak to a crisis counselor just to get some general support and help with coping or stress management and then we also have a pretty extensive resource list where we can help connect residents to different resources in their area,” Neil said.

The Department of Human Services is partnering with local organizations all across the state for this program.

“This allows people to get reconnected with each other and getting the emotional support and reconnecting the community in time of social isolation,” said Jean Devenney, a psychiatrist for the Burrell Center.

The Burell Center is one of the program’s local partners. Devenney says along with reconnecting people, PPE is an important program because it gives people the connections they need.

“We can provide emotional support and crisis counseling over the phone or go to them in person if that’s a better option for them,” Devenney said.

Crisis counseling is one of the first things provided as soon as you call the PPE hotline.

“Crisis counseling specifically is free to anyone affected by the pandemic and we can also make referrals to other programs,” Devenney said.

Along with the statewide offered counseling, local organizations are providing free services specific to their areas such as Facebook lives, virtual seminars and pen pal projects.

“We are here to help them through this and come up with ideas on how to cope and take care of ourselves through this whole ordeal,” Devenney said.