“Put your money where your mouth is,” is a well-known phrase, but in the case of the federal government, it is putting its money where the mind is.

That is, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an arm of the US Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) $2 million to support the state’s behavioral health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Money has been pouring into the physical health response to the virus for months. However, recently, there’s been a strong effort among federal and state health officials to also address the mental problems – and the related increased drinking and drugging – that come with being stuck at home, out of work and constantly in fear of a deadly invisible enemy.

NC Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Kody Kinsley stated in a Wednesday, April 22 press release that the disruptions caused by the virus, along with the new world order, have led to a lot of “fear and anxiety” across the state.

The $2 million grant will support NCDHHS’s efforts to address the growing needs of people with mental health issues and substance use disorders related to the coronavirus pandemic – as well as go toward supporting the mental health needs of the general public and of health care workers who are on the front lines of the fight.

The monetary award to North Carolina is part of an overall federal program totaling $110 million being handed out to states and to recognized tribes and territories. Fortunately, NCDHHS received the maximum award allowable under the program.

The funds will be used to enhance the state’s “Hope4Healers” hotline at 919-226-2002 – a state initiative that connects health care workers and their families to licensed clinicians using telehealth services. It will provide short-term support to help those health care workers cope.

The money will also be used to combat the drug abuse by supporting opioid treatment programs, especially in North Carolina counties that have been very hard hit economically by the COVID-19 crisis. According to NCDHHS, more than half of the people enrolled in these programs are self-payers. Therefore, job losses are often a significant barrier to someone continuing treatment.

The funds will also be used to help people just out of jails and prisons, who often have substance abuse problems and are likely unable to find work given the current employment environment.