COVID-19 has not stopped the Phoenix Center in Marble Falls from providing mental health services to its clients, even school-based services, said Executive Director Sarah Garrett.
“We are developing new and creative ways to serve families,” she explained. “That is the silver lining to the current situation. Everything is happening so quickly. It’s a lot of change for everyone.”
The center is using digital telehealth platforms, which are HIPAA-compliant and protect confidentiality, for individual and group counseling. Teleconferencing apps like Zoom are used to live stream yoga for students who attend Falls Career High School in Marble Falls. Clients with no access to the internet can receive help by phone.
“We are also offering a separate parenting session to any parent we are currently working with who wants that support weekly,” Garrett said.
The Phoenix Center provides trauma-informed mental health care to children ages 2-18 and their families through a wrap-around model of care that includes schools and any other institutions involved in a child’s life.
Beginning the week of March 16, weekly newsletters began going out to families offering advice on how to talk to kids about COVID-19, ways to reduce stress, and digital resources such as text lines, hotlines, and free apps for phones and tablets.
“We have resources for parents on how to support their children and their own well-being at this time,” Garrett continued. (See resource links at the bottom of this story.) “There’s a section that gives families different activities for at home and in the outdoors and a section about the mental health benefits of walking and hiking and being outdoors.”
The Phoenix Center has an extensive list of yoga and music therapy groups, which, of course, have been canceled because of COVID-19 prevention measures. A selection of yoga and music therapy classes are being held online for existing clients.
“Yoga is designed to unify the mind and body and has been scientifically shown to improve health in many ways,” said Dr. Amy Offutt, an extensively trained integrative medicine physician in Marble Falls. “As few as 12 sessions can improve the stress response, decrease anxiety, and decrease depression. A single session can often relieve pain and improve overall well-being.”
Certified yoga therapist Cece Goad of the Phoenix Center said the practice is a great tool to use when stress levels become overwhelming.
“Many people think that you have to have time and perfect circumstances to get a good yoga practice,” she said. “That’s not true. There are simple practices that everyone can do to help themselves through time.”
Making use of these online resources can save a life, Garrett added. Children already in crisis now face increased food insecurity, the unemployment of one or more parents, and the threat of homelessness along with upended schedules and routines.
“Dealing with this situation could lead to an increase of abuse and neglect,” Garrett said. “We already see high rates of that in this county. I would expect that to increase due to this situation.”
Any child suffering from stress tends to regress, she continued, offering a list of signs to look for in children. This is normal for anyone right now, both children and adults.
“A child depressed will not present the same way as an adult,” she said. “An adult may isolate when depressed, while a child is more likely to act out and have challenging behaviors.”
Those behaviors include regressing to younger actions. For example, a potty-trained toddler might begin to have accidents. Elementary-age children tend to become clingier or adopt the voice of a younger child.
“What they want is your undivided attention,” Garrett said. “Perhaps you can just talk to them, invite them to help you cook, go for a walk, a bike ride, read. Increasing the amount of attention and affection you give your child can be helpful.”
If someone is in crisis and needs immediate help, call Bluebonnet Trails Hotline at 800-841-1255 or 9-1-1 or go to nearest emergency room, if a true emergency. You can also access a hotline or a text line (see below) or contact the Phoenix Center at 830-637-7848 or email@example.com.
“It’s important for us to learn the telehealth platforms and implement them so that students can receive care at this time,” Garrett said. “Because we are all more socially isolated, it is important to us at the Phoenix Center to find creative ways to offer our services.”
A LIST OF ONLINE RESOURCES PUT TOGETHER BY THE PHOENIX CENTER
• “Talking to Children About COVID-19: A Parent Resource” from the National Association of School Psychologists
• “How to Talk toYour Kids About Coronavirus” from PBS Kids
• “Outbreak Fact Sheet: Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus Disease COVID-19” from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network
• “Talking to Kids about the Coronavirus” (also offered in Spanish) from Child Mind Institute
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
National Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-800-442-4673 (HOPE)
Local Bluebonnet Trails 24-Hour Crisis Hotline: 1-800-841-1255
Girls & Boys Town National Hotline: 1-800-448-3000
Text Lines for Teens or Parents:
Crisis Text Line: Text “SHARE” to 741741
Your Life Your Voice: 1-800-448-3000 (Text “VOICE” to 20121 seven days a week from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.)
The Phoenix Center is located at 3340 Texas 71 West in Horseshoe Bay. Call 830-637-7848 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.