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Pritzker announces new telehealth, mental health programs and urges Christians to stay home on Easter Sunday

At the daily pandemic briefing on Saturday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced new programs to help residents maintain their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and safely get medical attention for those suffering mild cases of the virus.

He and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike urged residents to resist the urge to gather for traditional Easter services and family events.

Ezike, who has said she is a woman of faith herself, acknowledged that physical distancing will be difficult during the Christian holy day. 

“Many are used to congregating. This Easter is different. It’s not one where we will be able to commune together,” she said. “Stay home. Keep your community safe. Any churches planning to meet, please cancel now.” 

Pritzker echoed her message.

“If you’re going to attend services, please attend them virtually,” he said. “It’s safer for you, for other parishioners, for your neighbors, your friends and your entire community.” 

Pritzker also announced the launch of a new mental health support line.
“We are living in a deeply unprecedented moment, and holding the emotional ramifications of that inside will only be harder on you. Please know that you don’t have to feel it all alone,” Pritzker said. “My administration is here to serve you and help see you through this time of crisis.”

The Illinois Department of Human Services’ Mental Health Division has launched the free emotional support text line, Call4Calm, for Illinois residents experiencing stress and mental health issues related to COVID-19.
Individuals who would like to speak with a mental health professional can text “TALK” to 5-5-2-0-2-0, or for Spanish, “HABLAR” to the same number. Call4Calm is free to use, and individuals will remain anonymous.
Once a resident sends a text to the hotline, within 24 hours they will receive a call from a counselor employed by a local community mental health center to provide support.
Individuals can also text 5-5-2-0-2-0, with key words such as “unemployment” or “food” or “shelter” and will receive information on how navigate and access supports and services.

“This is not a crisis hotline,” Pritzker said. “It is an emotional support health line.”

The state is also ramping up a telehealth system that provide services to anyone, including those who are uninsured.

The Remote Patient Monitoring Program utilizing Telehealth Services and Pandemic Health Worker (PHW) Programs was developed in partnership with OSF HealthCare and Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.
The program will reduce barriers to health and mental health services to support residents across Illinois with a focus on underserved communities and those at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pandemic Health Workers (PHWs) will digitally connect with members in the community who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and need to stay home or quarantine to protect themselves and others.
PHWs will virtually visit recipients daily, deliver wellness kits that include essential tools to monitor their health and follow-up over a 14-day period to ensure no further assistance is needed. Wellness kits will include items such as thermometers, pulse oximeters, blood pressure cuffs and alcohol wipes.
The program is design to help limit the spread of the virus by providing health services to people in their homes, and it will help keep hospitals from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
A person is eligible for the program if he or she is showing COVID-19 symptoms, or is at high risk for contracting the virus, but does not require emergency or inpatient care, and can be digitally monitored at home. A person must call the COVID-19 hotlines for a final determination of eligibility for the Pandemic Health Worker Program.
The Department of Healthcare and Family Services has formalized contracts for Central and Southern Illinois and is finalizing the partnership for the Northern Region this coming week.
The OSF PHW teams are serving East Central and North Central Illinois communities include Peoria/Bloomington, Champaign/Urbana, Evergreen Park, Danville, Galesburg, Kewanee, Monmouth, Ottawa, Mendota, Streator, Pontiac and Rockford. The OSF Hotline number is 833-673-5669 and is available now. More information can be found at www.osfhealthcare.org.

The SIU SOM PHW program is serving West Central and Southern Illinois include Springfield, Quincy, Decatur, Carbondale, and Metro East communities. The SIU Hotline number is 217-545-5100 and will be available starting Monday. More information can be found at www.siumed.edu/phw.


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