'Washington Listens' lending an ear during COVID-19 pandemic

Makayla Garrett is a support specialist for “Washington Listens,” the new statewide Covid-19 pandemic call line that launched last month.

“it is a very humbling experience,” said Garrett. “I’m a psychology major and this is practically something I’ve always dreamed of doing, helping others and being a support system for someone because I know how that feels for myself.”

Washington Listens helps people cope and strengthen resiliency during the COVID-19 pandemic and complements the state’s behavioral health response services by giving an outlet to folks who are not in crisis but need an outlet to manage stress, according to the Washington State Healthcare Authority.

“Somebody cares. Somebody is out there who understands how hard it is,” said Aundrea Jackson of Crisis Connections and King County 211.

So far, the support line has fielded about 1,200 phone calls and Jackson expects the call volume to grow. At the start of the pandemic, a coronavirus hotline was receiving a few thousand calls a day.

“It really tells us a lot that people are needing that resource and especially the loneliness. We hear a lot of people who just say I need somebody to talk to,” said Jackson. “We’re kind of like the friend in need for people to have somebody to talk to, to hear them out, just to say what else can I do to cheer myself up or how do I cope with this.”

Garrett said she has taken calls from people who are coping with the uncertainty of the pandemic, to questions about how to protect oneself and worries about a second surge.

“It’s okay to not be okay. So if you are feeling like you’re not okay, the world is crashing down, that is absolutely okay because we all feel that way and we’re all just trying to hang in there together and support one another. So just reach out and just keep hope alive,” said Garrett.

The Washington Listens support line is 1-833-681-0211. It is available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

TTY and language access services are available by using 7-1-1 or their preferred method.

Providers and tribes partnering with the support programs are American Indian Community Center, Colville Tribe, Community Integrated Health Services, Crisis Connections, Frontier Behavioral Health, Okanogan Behavioral Healthcare, and Swinomish Tribe.