Dealing with isolation during a stay-at-home order can be challenging, especially for those who struggle with mental health and addiction.

It is also challenging for those who help them.

“Our therapists and case managers continue to meet with clients via telehealth,” said Heartland Human Services Executive Director Nikki Quandt. “In-person sessions have been discontinued as much as possible in order to maintain the health of our clients and staff.”

In order to maintain proper social distancing, office hours at the Effingham facility are reserved for those who have a psychiatric appointment with a psychiatrist and psychiatric nurse practitioner.

“They have done a great job of engaging clients during this difficult time,” Quandt said.

“While our therapists have used telehealth in the past, it has been a major shift for them to go to full telehealth and not see their clients face to face,” she said.

Quandt said technical difficulties have been one of the largest struggles to overcome when transitioning Heartland’s crisis program to telehealth. The mental health organization worked with HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital to streamline the transition.

“Things are now going smoothly,” Quandt said. “Our supervisory team has worked hard to provide additional support to our staff as they adjust to working from home.”

Quandt noted Heartland’s therapists and case managers have stressful jobs and work with vulnerable populations, so it’s not uncommon, she said, for staff to have moments when they “need extra support.”

Quandt said Heartland’s residential team is also facing its own challengers for both residents and staff who are accustomed to being active.

“It has been hard for them to be contained to the residential homes,” Quandt said. “However, our staff is doing a great job creating activities to keep everyone busy.”

Quandt said since the stay-at-home order was issued, she has seen an increase in client anxiety.

“Our therapists work through this by discussing what we can and can’t control, and by discussing coping skills that can be utilized during this difficult time.” Quandt said.

“Many of us are struggling with COVID-19,” Quandt said. “So, it’s important to remember that there are people who can help and resources that can be utilized.”

Quandt said sheltering in place can be stressful and a difficult time for everyone. She suggests coming up with a list of coping skills you can use when you feel anxiety.

“Post them where you can see them and be reminded of them regularly,” Quandt said. “Come up with plans in regards to a place to cool down and step away from loved ones in your home when necessary in order to prevent escalation.”

Quandt said everyone needs their space and encourages families to communicate with each other to find places each member can escape to when needed.

“Please know that you are not alone and there are people willing and able to help you through this challenging time,” Quandt said. “We are all experiencing additional stress and anxiety. So please don’t hesitate to ask for help.”

Quandt said Heartland Human Services is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis by calling 217-342-5504.

“Our crisis workers will talk to those who call and assist them in making a plan for safety,” Quandt said. “We virtually report to the hospital whenever they have a patient who needs a mental health assessment and can assist in safety planning or facilitate psychiatric hospitalization if necessary.”

Heartland has a main phone line 217-347-7179 available for messages. Support staff will quickly return calls to anyone interested in starting therapy.

Charles Mills can be reached at charles.mills@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.

Charles Mills can be reached at charles.mills@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.

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Charles Mills is reporter and videographer for the Effingham Daily News. A 1983 graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, he worked as senior video editor for a Nashville television station. He is a native of Vandalia.