COVID help guide for struggling residents available in Somerset County

David Hurst, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·2 min read

Feb. 23—Since the onset of the COVID-19, area mental health professionals have had a simple, steady message about navigating the pandemic's stresses through isolation and loss.

"You're not alone" — and there's help available.

Bedford-Somerset Developmental Behavioral Health Services officials want to ensure residents in their territory how easy it is to get that help. The organization is publishing a comprehensive resource guide this week of every agency across their two-county area whose support is just a phone call away.

Administrator Mary Piatt-Bruner and Associate Regional Director for Community Care Randy Williams presented the guide to Somerset's commissioners for distribution Tuesday.

The guide features more than 30 agencies that specialize in providing mental health support, substance abuse and physical abuse support.

The guide includes 24-7 hotlines and phone numbers to dial or text for immediate support from each of those organizations, such as the Veteran Crisis Line, Somerset Victim Services and Somerset County Substance Use referral line.

Those "numbers" are only part of the story, Piatt-Bruner said.

She cited a recent survey that showed more than 40% of respondents indicated they've suffered from at least one mental or behavioral health condition — such as anxiety or depression — over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, 13% reported increased substance abuse, while 11% said they had considered suicide.

"Those numbers are concerning to us ... and that's why we developed this guide — to let people know they aren't alone," she said.

It is natural to feel overwhelmed, anxious and even depressed right now, Piatt-Bruner said — noting that people have lost jobs, loved ones and experiences they had traditionally enjoyed.

"The pandemic has affected and disrupted so many lives, whether its changes to daily routines ... or the death of a loved one," she said. "We're all experiencing pandemic fatigue."

And everyone can find a willing ear to listen to those concerns — discreetly — from the privacy of a home office computer or telephone, she added, pointing to some of the resources the two county area offers.

Bedford-Somerset Developmental Behavioral Health Services has also posted its resource guide online at

Commissioner Colleen Dawson praised the effort Tuesday, noting that there are likely people who don't even recognize they might need help — or know how to get it.

"In our community, there are people who are just now suffering from the effects (of the pandemic) — perhaps people who've never needed support before," Dawson said. "This is a great resource for them to have."

Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes said: "If you're stressed, reach out. Because there's help."