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NAMI California CEO Jessica Cruz talks COVID-19

NAMI California CEO and BHA Co-Chair Jessica Cruz sat down with us to discuss how NAMI is responding to the pandemic.

Cruz sees “three buckets” of COVID-19 impacts: 

  1. Those with serious mental illness: “We at NAMI are trying to make sure that family members are still being and feeling connected.”
  2. General mental health and wellness: “You’re seeing a lot of talk in the behavioral health space about making sure that we’re taking care of ourselves when it comes to wellness.”
  3. “Second wave” health care worker trauma: “We’re anticipating that there’s going to be kind of a hard hit of trauma that is, not only for our frontline staff, but those people who have been really severely impacted by this virus over the last few months.”

On dealing with increased need for mental health services: “We have really jumped from the in-person support groups in classes to virtual classes and support groups. It’s been really exciting to watch all of our affiliates and family members rise to that occasion to make sure that we’re providing services and supports to people who need it the most.”

Going virtual: “The telemedicine piece is something that we have been advocating for alongside with our hospitals and clinicians to make sure that those people who are hard to reach are able to get some assessments, even, and check in with their doctors. That is nice to see that there’s getting some traction around that.”

  • But: “There is that digital divide in those people who don’t have access to technology that we still need to figure out ways to deliver these services. I don’t think anybody could have been prepared for what we are doing. But again, the most hopeful piece about this is we’re really seeing some heroes here within California.”

NAMI’s wish: “I definitely think that if there was a magic wand to help people, there would be one phone number that people could call when they’re trying to figure out where to go when it comes to behavioral health, within the current crisis that we’re in and beyond. One place where we can get direction, whether it is just being handed off to a warm line call center, a suicide prevention, or helping somebody who can fill out their paperwork for Medi-Cal if they’re being released from jail or prison. There should just be one place.”

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