Crisis Services, the nonprofit that provides Western New York ranging from domestic and sexual violence to operating a 24/7 suicide hotline, is the most comprehensive crisis center in upstate New York. 

    What You Need To Know

    • Crisis Services operates a 24-hour 7-day hotline at 716-834-3131 or visit their website for more information 

    • The nonprofit continues to serve WNY regarding suicide prevention, domesitc and sexual violence, mental health and more

    • Nonprofit continues to do that while making sure its staff is safe

In the over two months since the pandemic caused the state to be on pause, like most organizations Crisis Services has had to adapt how they serve the community.

More than four out of 10 Americans say the pandemic negatively impacted their mental health according to a poll by Kaiser Family Foundation.

"It was a lot to adapt to, and then also assure that our services were seamless to the community, considering the level of crisis that we're experiencing," Jessica Pirro, the executive director of Crisis Services said.

But unlike other organizations, the nonprofit did so at a time when more people were in need of their help.

"The teams have done a great job ensuring good communication and dealing with very high crisis situations. We are definitely being utilized by the community,” Pirro said. “It is our hope that people will use us right now for extra support and guidance."

Even as different counties, like Erie County, in New York state enter Phase One of reopening, many individuals are still in isolation, coping with job loss, and other stressors brought on by the pandemic.

"Right from the beginning, we were starting to see callers identifying concerns around COVID,” she said. “More so questions like, 'What is this? How is this going to impact me?' But then we also started to see higher levels of anxiety, higher levels of crisis being influenced by all of the unknowns with COVID."

However, Pirro notes that there is help available for those struggling with the mental health aspects of the pandemic and encourages people to reach out to Crisis Services and other providers.

In addition to an increase in hotline calls, Crisis Services adopted telemental health services and provided its mobile outreach program team members with personal protective equipment.

While the nonprofit has transitioned to a more blended model of services, face-to-face interventions are still a necessary service in the Western New York area.

"When we look at, for example, our March numbers, we did about 100, over 150 visits that were face-to-face, which is a pretty high volume considering the concerns,” Pirro said. “But that also shows the need and the level of crisis that those individuals were in that we did determine that that was necessary."

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic can be even more stressful for people more at risk like the elderly, first responders, essential workers or those with underlying health conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I'm hopeful that we are going to be a little bit more aware that struggles can happen in a moment's notice, this crisis happened very quickly,” Pirro said.

But, she notes that this a traumatic event that the community is going through — and how we address that trauma earlier on will determine how the community heals.

Her hope is that the community can come together not just in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, but also in the long-term.

"What I'm hopeful from this experience — taking the opportunity from the crisis — is as a community, we're being more thoughtful, we're paying attention to each other, we're checking in with each other," she said.