Park City mental health organizations plan remote support groups amid coronavirus crisis |

Park City mental health organizations plan remote support groups amid coronavirus crisis

The Park Record.

Watercooler Conversations

Who: Summit County Health Department

When: 3-4:30 p.m. every Friday


Staying Mentally Balanced During These Unprecedented Times

Who: CONNECT Summit County and Dr. Melissa Lopez-Larson

When: 10-11 a.m. MST, Saturday, March 21

Where: Facebook Live, @drlsquared

How to volunteer

Mental health professionals interested in assisting the Summit County Health Department or CONNECT Summit County with their online support group programs can contact the organizations by emailing or Deanna Rhodes at

When’s the last time a pandemic threw a wrench into your dinner plans, travel schedule or entire livelihood?

Almost all Summit County residents would answer that question with “never,” and might feel more than a little stressed out about it. To fill the need for conversation and support in an isolated time, Summit County mental health organizations are rolling out free online group support sessions and webinars aimed at helping attendees cope. Connect Summit County is beginning a series of Facebook Live talks with local experts, while the county Health Department will hold what Director of Behavioral Health Aaron Newman calls “watercooler conversations” every Friday from 3-4:30 p.m.

Newman said that his department’s sessions are intended to provide residents a space to air out their thoughts safely, without needing to book time for an appointment with a mental health professional or to travel to be around a group of people. The sessions are sponsored by University of Utah Health and will be delivered through Zoom, a messaging and video chat service, since in-person gatherings aren’t possible.

“This week, not only do we have the COVID-19 taking place, but as a result of that we have a lot of people either getting furloughed or (who have) lost their jobs, and not knowing where that next paycheck is coming from that’s caused people a lot of stress and anxiety,” Newman said. “Traditionally a lot of those folks would go to their community watering holes, they have a network of people that they could support and talk to and get it off their chest, and with everything closed right now that’s just not an option.”

This is a marathon right now, and we’re not sure where the finish line is,” Aaron Newman, Summit County Health Department behavioral health coordinator

Connect Summit County Executive Director Deanna Rhodes, meanwhile, said that the nonprofit’s sessions will each have a central theme, such as Saturday’s “Staying Mentally Balanced Through These Unprecedented Times,” which is scheduled for 10 a.m. and will feature Park City psychiatrist Melissa Lopez-Larson. The talk will be delivered via Facebook Live on Lopez-Larson’s page, @drlsquared. The sessions are open to 20 attendees.

“We’ve had a lot of outpouring of support from providers during this time; ideally we get one a day,” Rhodes said. “We’re really trying to get this up as quick as possible so that there is at least this resource to get people started.”

More sessions are in the works, including a Health Department series focused on parenting. Among the possibilities for Connect are sessions aimed at teenagers and Spanish-language sessions.

Newman said that his department’s sessions have been in development since the beginning of the week and that, as with many services and providers, he and his staff have been working overtime to account for the new coronavirus pandemic and its disruptions to everyday life.

“This is a marathon right now, and we’re not sure where the finish line is,” he said. “You don’t get into behavioral health work to have a 9-to-5 job.”

Without a clear endpoint for the crisis, both Newman and Rhodes said they’re actively searching for volunteers to help monitor the sessions and provide input of their own. Prospective volunteers can get in touch by contacting the respective organizations.

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