Local nonprofit expands mental health services

LifeLinks, a not for profit agency that has been providing innovative mental health services to Coles and surrounding counties for more than 50 years, is expanding service offerings in response to COVID-19.  According to LifeLinks’ Executive Director, Lynette Ashmore, “The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting loss of jobs and economic hardship is negatively affecting our community’s mental health.  Measures that have been taken to slow the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, business and school closures and shelter-in-place orders, have led to greater isolation, stress, and worry.  Community members, including many children and adolescents, are experiencing increasing depression, anger and anxiety over fear of themselves or a loved one falling ill with the virus.”  

In response to COVID-19 the Illinois Department of Human Services requested that LifeLinks become a part of the state-wide Call 4 Calm network.  Community members who text “TALK” to 552020 are contacted by a mental health counselor within 24 hours.  “Although not a crisis line, Call 4 Calm gives people someone to talk to for support through this difficult time.  These counselors are helping to link community members with other services they need, including ongoing mental health counseling,” according to Ashmore.   

LifeLinks was also one of two mental health providers in the State of Illinois asked to participate in a State of Illinois SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) sponsored program.  The COVID-19 emergency grant focuses on meeting the mental health needs of children, adolescents and their families who are struggling with the emotional impact of COVID-19, but do not have insurance to pay for needed services.  “Many children are experiencing a new or worsening serious emotional disturbance as a result of COVID-19,” according to Ashmore, “but because of financial hardship or lack of insurance, families are hesitant to ask for help.”  This program will provide evidence based services to children and families who are uninsured or underinsured and living in Coles, Clark, Edgar, Shelby, Moultrie, Cumberland and Douglas counties.  Ashmore noted, “We plan to use a combination of state of the art technology as well as face to face interventions to ensure consumer and staff safety.”   Parents of children who are uninsured or underinsured and live in one of the 7 counties listed can call the Access Center at LifeLinks at 217-238-5700 for more information.

Annually, LifeLinks serves approximately 3,900 individuals, including more than 1,000 children.  For more information on additional services provided by LifeLinks visit their website at www.lifelinksinc.org or Facebook page at LifeLinks Mental Health.

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