The State of Nevada, in partnership with the UNLV School of Medicine, today launched a new phone support service for healthcare workers responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
Called the Nevada HealthCARES Warmline, the phone service -- 1-833-434-0385 -- is designed to help Nevada healthcare professionals deal with the stress and anxiety related to tackling the COVID-19 virus by helping them develop immediate and long term coping strategies.
Dr. Stephanie Woodard, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Senior Advisor on Behavior Health, said the project is a “great example of what can happen when a university partners with the state.”
Healthcare workers are likely to be treating the coronavirus for sometime to come and that means high levels of stress as they try to help others and protect themselves and their families, said Woodard, who said the stress she saw medical professionals suffer in the aftermath of the Oct. 1, 2017 shooting on the Strip that killed 58 and wounded 413 convinced her that more support is needed for healthcare professionals who deal with highly traumatic situations.
While Woodard said many things are reopening in Nevada, “that doesn’t mean COVID-19 has gone.” She noted that many medical experts believe outbreaks of the virus will be seen this fall and winter.
Dr. Sara Hunt, the assistant dean of behavioral health sciences for the UNLV School of Medicine, is overseeing the warmline project. She said the phone service, free and offering anonymity, will be staffed by volunteer mental health and other health professionals from throughout the state Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
It is an adaptation of the Psychological First Aid (PFA) practice used by the American Red Cross.
“PFA is typically provided face-to-face in response to a disaster but has been adapted to be provided virtually given the current public health crisis and social distancing restrictions,” Hunt said. “Volunteers can assist with reducing stress and promoting healthy coping through a variety of interventions and actions, such as providing contact information for a needed community resource (perhaps childcare or rental assistance), sharing relaxation strategies, providing tips for improving sleep or recommending a referral to mental health services.”
Hunt said volunteers who have been trained in PFA, an evidence-informed practice of recognizing and responding to people experiencing disaster-related stress, have been recruited through the Battle Born Medical Corps and the State Emergency Registry of Volunteers-Nevada (SERV-NV). They include licensed mental health and other health professionals from throughout Nevada.
A warmline, Hunt said, is a step down from a 24-7 hotline, which has already been established and services people in immediate crisis. “A warmline is there to keep people from getting to that crisis level, to offer support and resources according to their current need or source of stress.”
Dr. Alison Netski, the chair of the UNLV School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health who has been consulting on the project, pointed out many individuals in the healthcare field have been affected by COVID-19, stretching from doctors and nurses to facility service workers, patient attendants, and counselors.