Last year, Tulare County’s Behavioral Health Crisis Team responded to over 5,600 calls from people experiencing crisis and seeking help.

Last year, Tulare County’s Behavioral Health Crisis Team responded to over 5,600 calls from people experiencing crisis and seeking help.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the mental health of many people across the country.

Tulare County Behavioral Health officials say they have also experienced an increase in calls for service locally.

“Isolation, quarantine, remote learning, business impacts, and physical distancing has impacted everyone, some more than others,” said Donna Ortiz, Tulare County Behavioral Health Branch director. “It is critical that we examine and evaluate our crisis care system, recognizing the need to address whole-community behavioral health needs.”

Last year, Tulare County’s Behavioral Health Crisis Team responded to more than 5,600 calls from people experiencing crisis and seeking help. At the same time, psychiatric hospitalizations grew to 1,656 cases.

The Tulare County Suicide Prevention Task Force reported 35 suicides in 2021 and 35 in 2020.

“A significant number of our community members and families are feeling the impacts, and Tulare County Behavioral Health is seeking to take action,” Tulare County officials stated in a news release.

Tulare County Behavioral Health, in partnership with community mental health and wellness partners and stakeholders, is seeking community input to help determine mental health and substance use disorder services. The goal, Tulare County officials say, is to create improvements from the public’s recommendations to grow local infrastructure and mobilize services in crisis care.

Focus groups will be formed to gain feedback on what is working in the community, what is not meeting the needs, and implementing best practices for enhanced services.

Anyone who has experience with the current crisis response system in the county is encouraged to participate. Participation is not limited to those receiving care but includes anyone with knowledge or experience in the fields of behavioral health and crisis care.

This article originally appeared on Visalia Times-Delta: Coronavirus pandemic fuels spike in local crisis care calls for help