The Hawaii Coordinated Access Resource Entry System, also known as Hawaii CARES, is expanding its services to provide around-the-clock access to mental health resources, substance abuse treatment services and crisis support through its improved hotline.

Callers can access services through Hawaii CARES by calling 1-800-753-6879. People in crisis can also text ALOHA to 741741.

people who cannot leave the house due to an epidemic
Hawaii behavioral health providers say they are gearing up for an influx of patients needing treatment or counseling as a consequence of the dismantling of the economy. Getty Images

The hotline, which is free to use, is a collaboration between the Hawaii Health Department’s Behavioral Health Services Administration and the University of Hawaii Manoa’s Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work. It offers support to people experiencing a mental health crisis and addresses gaps in substance abuse treatment services by helping callers identify available beds for residential treatment and reduce their wait time for entry into treatment programs.

The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Calls to crisis hotlines and hospital admissions for psychiatric problems are up as the economy unravels and many feel isolated by public health restrictions.

Eddie Mersereau, deputy director of the state’s Behavioral Health Services Administration, said in a prepared statement that the move to offer more comprehensive services to Hawaii CARES callers is important because people who are experiencing a crisis often struggle with more than one behavioral or mental health issue at a time.

Mental health providers statewide are reporting heightened levels of anxiety, loneliness, depression and stress in their patients as a result of job loss, financial worries and the psychologically isolating effects of public health safeguards like public mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines.

As a result, many psychiatrists are increasing their patients’ medication dosages or seeing them more often.

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