Coronavirus restrictions have nearly disappeared in Wisconsin, but that doesn’t mean that lingering effects of the economic fallout and consequences of a global pandemic have.
Project Recovery is offering free, over-the-phone crisis counseling for people who are dealing with the consequences of the global health crisis.
The program through Community Action Coalition has counselors available 24/7 for emotional support and, if desired, a place for information and resource referrals in Dane, Rock, Milwaukee, Walworth, Waukesha and Jefferson counties.
Matida Bojang, a team lead for Project Recovery, told Madison365 that people call to discuss inconveniences of the pandemic, or call to talk when they are at the end of their rope.
“I got calls about people needing to find COVID vaccinations sites, people needing to find a food pantry… one of our counselors received a call from someone who said they were going to drop off their kid at daycare and then go kill themselves. So it really varies,” Bojang said.
She has noticed from her experience as a counselor that people are depressed and lonely because of the pandemic.
“COVID has changed the world that we live in. Our mental health for a lot of people has been suffering and we don’t always know what is happening and we see people that are more on edge than usual, more angry, helpless, and just sad. Stress can manifest in different ways from feelings of denial and grief, anger, apathy, depression and typically through weight gain, chronic fatigue and sleep disruptions.There is definitely a need for counseling,” Bojang said.
From June through October 2020, Project Recovery supported 2,027 people in the state, according to a Department of Health Services news release. Bojang said in her department she is averaging about 16 calls a day.
The calls can last anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours, and almost always receive follow-up calls from counselors. Bojang estimated that 90% of the calls are related to rent assistance and although Project Recovery isn’t providing direct financial assistance, team members can help callers get connected with outside resources, determine eligibility and fill out applications.
“There is a huge need for financial assistance right now,” she said.
In addition to having counselors available for emotional support, Bojang said the majority of what she is doing is outreach.
“When I was interviewing for the team lead position, one of the things that they asked me [about] was my vision for the program and my response to that was that I wanted to see us reach more Black and Brown community populations in Dane county, as well as Waukesha and Jefferson counties because I knew that those populations were the ones that were disproportionately impacted by this pandemic,” she told Madison365.
Bojang’s team of six is made up of people who speak three different languages including Spanish and Somali. She said there is also someone available who speaks Hmong.
She said the team plans to be at various community events, including the Madison Annual Juneteenth Celebration, to let people in the community know the service is available.
To reach the hotline call 608-237-1255 or call 211 and ask for Project Recovery. The service is available through the end of August.