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  • Writer's pictureCameron Cochran

Amid Pandemic, Wilson Wellness Collaborative Offers Mental Health Resources

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Posted Thursday, December 10, 2020

By Brie Handgraaf, Wilson Daily Times

The Wilson Wellness Collaborative is working to connect people with mental health care

The COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on mental health has prompted the Wilson Wellness Collaborative’s partners to adapt and evolve.

“This pandemic is negatively affecting the mental health of many people, is creating barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders and is highlighting disparities in health outcomes,” said Laura Owens, CEO for Carolina Family Health Centers. “It is imperative that individuals suffering from mental health issues seek care from a trusted health care provider and seek it early, but they must know where to start. This collaborative of local partners allows us to reach individuals where they are and provide the appropriate resources, education and care to keep our community safe and healthy.”

Since the collaborative debuted a three-year action plan in May 2019, the more than 75 local agencies and community members involved in the effort have been working on early childhood programs and healthy food access, a local food council, a committee to focus on eviction diversion and expansion of school-based health centers as well as establishing a post-opioid overdose response team. During a November meeting, though, the stakeholders decided to prioritize mental health resources.

“N.C. 211 will be the primary resource promoted through this initiative,” said Paula Benson, executive director for Wilson Forward. “Our local United Way has invested in this service, and Wilson partners are supporting this service by listing their resources and contact information while encouraging other partners to do the same.”

N.C. 211 is available 24/7 and provides information and referrals to all North Carolinians in multiple languages. The agencies callers are directed to often offer a variety of resources.

“If you are having financial difficulties, you may be eligible for help with food, medical and heating expenses. We offer prevention and parenting resources that can help with concrete strategies to manage mental health challenges with children and youth of all ages. We also provide services to older and disabled adults,” said Candice Rountree, grants and community engagement program manager for the Wilson County Department of Social Services. “Part of being a strong community is realizing when some of our members are hurting; help starts here at DSS with no judgment.”

Benson said she’s hopeful the collaboration will help agencies work together to provide a multi-prong approach to mental health resources.

“All of us have changed the way we are living, working and playing, but some community members are suffering in very significant ways. As an organization invested in supporting relationships to create a healthy community for all, our Wilson Wellness Collaborative offers a clear path that builds on our strengths and creates opportunities for growth,” she added. “We are at a moment in time where collaborative work is imperative for immediate and impactful action to support mental health.”

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