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SD Keeps Mental-Health Program Going through the Holidays

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Thursday, December 24, 2020   

PIERRE, S.D. -- South Dakotans who may be dealing with mental-health issues made worse by the pandemic can still make use of a special program.

State officials say they don't want anyone's anxiety exacerbated by the "holiday blues" as the crisis drags on.

Launched in the spring, "605 Strong" offers resources and support, including crisis intervention, through a COVID-19 call center. It's designed for folks dealing with unemployment, housing and health concerns.

Laurie Gill, Secretary of the Department of Social Services, said it's important to keep the initiative in place, since COVID-19 and the holiday season are overlapping at the worst time for some individuals.

"People are still experiencing the effects of the pandemic, and we know that holidays, along with being joyful, for many people can be stressful, and sad and lonely," Gill explained.

The service is free and anonymous. A person in need of help can simply call 211, or go online to 605Strong.com. When reaching out, a trained counselor is available, or the program can connect a person with other resources.

Gill emphasized being able to remain anonymous is especially important, since the crisis is prompting many people who might have never considered seeking help before to now give it some thought.

"They're experiencing stresses right now, and they never have experienced this before," Gill remarked. "And they're afraid. Sometimes people don't want to burden their friends and families with their worries and their fears."

While there's no current total, Gill said several thousand South Dakotans have accessed the service so far.

The "605 Strong" program is funded through a federal grant, and the state said it will periodically evaluate how long to continue it, based on the level of need and the pandemic.


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