Illinois Unveils New Virtual Health Services During Pandemic Crisis As Cases Lean Toward 20,000

WBBM Newsradio Staff
April 11, 2020 - 3:55 pm


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- As Illinois cases continue to climb, the state is rolling out new digital healthcare measures to address the emotional and physical toll of the crisis, valuable especially for underserved communities and those who have coronavirus but can recover at home.

A new mental health hotline is here to help those who are stressed out and need to talk during the pandemic. The Illinois Call4Calm Text Line is now open 24 hours a day with both Spanish and English counselors to help connect digitally and remind people it's okay to feel the emotional weight of COVID-19.

Started by the Illinois Department of Human Services, Gov. Pritzker said virtual measures like the hotline will help increase community and address the vital need during this time.

"We’re all dealing with a new situation," Pritzker said. "It’s OK to feel. And please know that you don’t have to feel it all alone." 

Kia Coleman, assistant secretary of the Department of Human Services, said the new hotline features professional counselors who want to help Illinoisans with their mental wellness.

"The needs of our communities have increased and DHS are rising to the challenge," Coleman said.

The hotline is accessible by texting TALK to 552020 for English or HABLAR for Spanish. Coleman said people seeking assistance will remain anonymous and will provide only their first name and zip code, which enables the service to link you to a counselor in your area who is knowledgeable about available local resources.

Call4Calm is part of the department's efforts to increase mental health resources for the state. Coleman said her department has donated $1 million to vital workers on the frontlines of the crisis and spent $1 million to increase mental health services, including hiring more counselors.

Pritzker also announced a new remote monitoring system for those who contract the virus but are recovering at home that is expected to roll out sometime next week. 

In addition to offering a digital connection between patients and doctors, he said the digital system will help alleviate medical professionals and hospitals that are dealing with a high number of at-risk patients. The system will still allow doctors and nurses to touch base with patients through daily virtual visits. Patients will also receive wellness that include thermometers, a pulse oximetry device to measure blood oxygen level, alcohol wipes, blood pressure monitors and more.

Pritzker called the program a step in the betterment of Illinois residents, especially for lower-income and disadvantaged communities that do not have easy access to healthcare and supplies.

"This program will also help limit the spread of the virus and keep those who can recover at home," he said.

These virtual resources are part of the state's increased telehealth measures that are expanding digitally to support the rapid demand of health care needs. The Peoria OSF Healthcare telehealth portal, which recently expanded staff to have more doctors and nurses available, is partnering with the state to make sure essential treatments can continue, including non-COVID-19 related matters.  

As of Saturday, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced 81 new deaths and 1,293 cases, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 19,180 and 677 deaths. Check out the latest on coronavirus in Illinois here.