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Mountain Home, Ark. hospital starts COVID-19 grief program

A Hospital in Mountain Home, AR is working to address mental health struggles related to the pandemic with a COVID grief support group.
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 6:36 PM CST
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MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (KY3) - Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home, Arkansas has been combating COVID-19 on several different fronts for the last year and a half. Staff wants to address the pandemic from a mental health standpoint with a new “COVID Grief Program.”

During the pandemic, COVID-19 affected everyone. Many suffered from it and some even lost family members to it.

”We need something for our patients’ families after they leave or the patients who are the long haulers experiencing significant life changes,” said Brian Barnett, the director of business management at BRMC.

Some have been affected more than others, which led Baxter Regional Medical Center to provide a new service for COVID-19 grief. The program was the idea of two social workers at the hospital who thought there was not enough being done for patients and their families after their treatment concluded.

”We work very closely with the families when their members are here with COVID,” said Ashley Johnson, a social worker in the intensive care unit. “So we’ve seen the need for them to get together and have more support.”

The group sessions help participants discuss what struggles they’re going through from the virus. For many that can be the loss of a loved one.

”Maybe the person that brought COVID into the home doesn’t get as sick and a family member does and potentially passes away,” Barnett explained. “That initial person now has survivor’s guilt.“

”More than anything we just want them to know they’re not alone and that there are resources available,” said Misty Perry, a social worker in the emergency room.

The loss of a loved one isn’t the only topic discussed. One of the primary purposes of the group is to provide a sense of community at a time when many can feel alone.

”When people are sick in the hospital we have to limit visitation,” said Barnett. “If family members have COVID they have to stay at home. So, it’s created a lot of isolation and they don’t get quite the sense of closure they typically do.“

“Our goal is to continue to facilitate these meetings so that participants can continue those relationships and benefit from the community together,” said Johnson.

While it is in the early stages, the hospital is already collaborating on a similar program for health workers with grief or COVID-19-related PTSD.

For more information on Baxter Regionals COVID Grief Program, you can contact Ashley Johnson atadjohnson@baxterregional.org or visit https://www.baxterregional.org/events/event-details/?Event=25663

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