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Pandemic prompts launch of free 24-hour support line for people with developmental disabilities

Prior to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, people with developmental disabilities have historically been disproportionately impacted by mental health issues compared to those without disabilities. According to the Center for Disease Control, 17.4 million adults with disabilities experience frequent mental health distress, such as anxiety and depression, about 4.6 times as often as adults without disabilities.

Today, that number is rapidly increasing for this population because of pandemic-related impacts, such as isolation and lack of community engagement and social interaction, while availability for in-person mental health services has not kept up with demand.

In response, The Arc of California partnered with Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare to launch Project Connect, a FREE 24-hour support line for people with disabilities, their caregivers, family members and support team.

The Project Connect telehealth support line is staffed by graduate students in the Stony Brook School of Social Welfare and supervised by licensed social workers. The graduate students offer a wide range of support services including counseling, wellness checks, depression screening, and referrals to community services.

"We saw this collaborative opportunity with The Arc as serving a dual purpose. It is allowing us an opportunity to support the needs of people with disabilities and their families during a tough time, while also providing our graduate students with real world professional counseling experience," said Warren K. Graham, Assistant Dean of Field Education and Clinical Assistant Professor, Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare. "Our team of social workers are well-prepared to offer support, guidance and referrals to anyone who calls."

Since the start of the pandemic, Stony Brook University and The Arc have been working together on developing solutions to some of the most urgent concerns facing this population, starting with how to prepare caregivers of individuals with unique needs for a hospital stay should they get diagnosed with COVID-19.

"We hope this free teletherapy line will remind people that they are not alone, and to give those who are feeling overwhelmed or are struggling a glimmer of hope that together we can get through this and thrive," Lindsey said.

To get support for you or person with a disability, please call the toll-free line for Project Connect at 1-888-847-3209.

Source: PR Newswire, The ARC California

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