New York City’s first local COVID-19 crisis-counseling programs are rolling out.

The programs, part of the State Office of Mental Health’s Project Hope, will be run by about 20 community agencies throughout the five boroughs.

Project Hope, funded by a $106-million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been providing an emotional support hotline for anyone in the state, as well as online educational resources and links to social services.

Local outreach, which will be expanding in the city this month, is central to the mission of the new programs.

“Creating community partnerships––that’s one of the big things that community crisis-counseling programs can do that our emotional support hotline certainly is not really able to do,” Project Hope director Douglas Ruderman said at a virtual town hall held by State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan). “We’re going to be asking them to reach out and build alliances with your libraries, with your houses of worship, we use schools, with your businesses, with your laundromats––wherever they can get to get information out.”

Unlike traditional crisis-response programs, in which door-to-door canvassing is the norm, Project Hope has had to operate entirely remotely.

The programs will connect New Yorkers with neighborhood resources ranging from traditional counseling to food pantries. 

Project Hope aims to meet the widespread need for mental-health services and support during the pandemic. “Those of us who have lost loved ones, or lost their job, or [are] recovering from the virus may be experiencing significant mental health symptoms for the first time in our life,” said Krueger. 

According to Ruderman, the state hotline has received around 40,000 phone calls. The demand was highest in the spring, averaging 8,000 calls per month, while the summer saw a decline in calls to as low as 3,000 per month. Calls have increased in recent months as infection rates climb and the weather turns colder.

A study published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August found that the mental health of more than 40% of survey respondents has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders were dramatically above those reported for the same period last year.

The Project Hope emotional support hotline can be reached every day at 844-863-9314 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. For 24-hour support, visit NYC Well.