The volume of calls to Whidbey organizations offering assistance have not shown a drastic increase, but demonstrate a need to connect with local resources during the pandemic.
Island County Human Services Director Jackie Henderson said she saw “a slow increase” in calls to the county’s various hotlines.
Like many others, the pandemic forced the Human Services staff to work remotely and assist the public over the phone in most cases.
“We’re trying to be as creative as possible,” Henderson said.
People are calling the mental health hotline for beyond-the-obvious reasons, seeking help with case management, filling out unemployment forms and more, said Henderson. She encourages people to continue calling 360-678-2346 number if they need to talk with someone. The line is answered 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
Island County also has phone lines dedicated to housing support, substance use, developmental disabilities, veterans and parenting support, all answered by human services staff.
There are also national crisis hotlines staff may refer people to, including a 24-hour behavioral health crisis number, 1-800-584-3578.
WhidbeyHealth EMS Manager Roger Meyers said he noticed a “small anomaly” in the numbers for calls related to suicide attempts, according to Public Relations Officer Patricia Duff.
Duff said in an email that Meyers noticed the change because calls for suicide attempts usually come in during the holidays and grayer weather.
“However, it’s generally apparent that the pandemic is causing stress for many people since they are out of work, home all the time, worried about their lack of income, etc.,” she said.
According to an analysis of forecasted COVID-19 behavioral health impacts from the state’s Department of Health, the highest risk of suicide for Washington citizens will likely occur between October and December, consistent with cycles of disaster response patterns.
Detective Ed Wallace said in an email that the Island County Sheriff’s Office received about the same number of domestic violence calls as last year between March 1 to April 14.
The same is true for suicidal subject calls, which remained static, Wallace said.
The sheriff credits the numbers to the proactive work that Island County Human Services and Citizens Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse, or CADA, have been doing, Wallace said.
Duff said there were more calls to the hospital about domestic arguments, but they don’t necessarily involve violence.
When Island County Human Services receives calls related to domestic violence, Henderson said, the staff makes referrals through various housing organizations, and contact law enforcement if needed.
Human services also makes referrals to CADA, which provides free, confidential assistance to survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse, elder abuse, stalking, child abuse or neglect. It also provides legal advocacy, safety planning and referrals to emergency shelters.
CADA staff reported an increase in both calls and texts during the stay-at-home order. Julie Spangler, who is part of the agency’s prevention team, said the governor-mandated order has forced people affected by domestic violence to isolate with their abuser.
Its 24-hour crisis line is available by calling 360-675-2232 or 800-215-5669. People can also log onto thehotline.org to chat with a trained advocate, or text LOVEIS to 22522.
“We’re not glad the numbers are up, but we are glad people know we’re a resource,” Spangler said.
A new program for the Sheriff’s Office has volunteers contacting citizens who live alone daily.
A volunteer calls between 9-10 a.m. If that call isn’t answered, they call again after 15 minutes. If there is no response after the second call, a deputy sheriff is sent to the citizen’s address.
People can sign up themselves or someone they know by calling 360-572-2477.