CUMBERLAND — The Maryland Department of Health has announced Operation Courage, a new support services program designed to address the growing and long-term mental health care needs of frontline workers and first responders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program launched with a new website and an online assessment designed to encourage workers to get needed help.

“We are grateful for the many courageous Marylanders who continue to risk their own safety for others every day — we know it’s not getting easier,” said MDH acting Secretary Dennis R. Schrader.

“From inside hospitals to grocery stores, employees are working under prolonged and extreme stress. Through Operation Courage, we will support those who continue to answer the calls of a country in crisis, to help them weather this prolonged storm and to emerge as mentally healthy as possible.”

Operation Courage offers a free online assessment followed by a consultation that includes an initial conversation, deescalation for people experiencing an immediate crisis and may include recommendations for self-care or referrals to other services, depending on the level of need.

After the initial call, people who decide to engage are offered up to six weeks of therapy consisting of an evaluation, treatment plan, psychotherapy and ongoing assessments as needed.

The program will accept insurance and waive co-pays. A sliding scale fee schedule and discounted rates are also available to individuals who are uninsured.

“Serving on the front lines of this pandemic is not without a cost; one CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) study shows that 54% of surveyed essential workers report at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom,” said Dr. Aliya Jones, deputy secretary of MDH’s Behavioral Health Administration.

“First responders in particular are trained to be brave, but the psychological burden of risking your personal safety over a prolonged period of time is traumatizing.”

Operation Courage is made possible in part by funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

To learn more about Operation Courage or to take the free online assessment, visit www.theoperationcourage.com.

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