Safe Communities sees 50% increase in calls for help from people dealing with mental health, substance use disorders

MADISON, Wis. — Between the pandemic, civil unrest and a divisive election, Safe Communities Madison-Dane County’s help hotline has experienced a 50% increase in calls since its launch in April.

“There are times when there are not very many calls coming in and then all of a sudden, we’re slammed,” said recovery coach program manager Kristina Vaccaro.

Vaccaro said Safe Communities has helped more than 750 people since the beginning of the year, which is more than double the number of people they help in an average year.

“We are still in the middle of a major pandemic and then there’s the political unrest, we are moving into winter, people are still feeling pretty isolated and scared and that’s really not a great place to be if you are dealing with a substance use disorder,” she said.

She also said it’s even challenging once people actually connect with someone who can help considering their treatment and sessions are now done virtually.

“Even our team is feeling this,” Vaccaro said. “We are all people in recovery. So really, being together in a room and sharing that connection lacks over a computer screen.”

This is not an isolated issue. UW Health distinguished psychologist Dr. Shilagh Mirgain said many of the issues we see daily are triggers for those who are prone to using drugs and alcohol.

“A recent survey by the CDC found that over 40% of all US adults are reporting they’re struggling with mental health or substance use issues, Mirgain said. “There’s no shame in having gone through a lapse in your recovery. Pick yourself back up and take that next step in the direction of your health.”

The last two months of 2020 could get even tougher with big holidays approaching. Safe Communities expects their numbers may increase as we get into the winter months.

Mirgain recommends checking on your loved ones. If you or someone you know needs help, Safe Communities’ 24-hour hotline is 608-228-1278. You are not alone. Someone will be on the other end of that line ready to help you.