Local help hotline sees increase in calls during pandemic


The Help Network of Northeast Ohio said there's been an especially large jump in people calling for information about food pantries

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LISBON, Ohio (WKBN) – As we all work through the challenges forced upon us and our families because of COVID-19, how can those who help others through crises help themselves?

Members of the group Leadership Columbiana County held a roundtable Wednesday morning called “Leading Through Change.”

Vince Brancaccio, with the Help Network of Northeast Ohio — formerly known as Help Hotline, was among the panelists. He said the agency went from an average of 1,500 calls a week to as many as 2,500 during the pandemic.

“We had an increase in calls that we call ‘COVID-19’ or ‘mental health reassurance’ calls, inquiring about the illness itself and, in turn, just having someone to talk to who’s going to help them with their anxiety, their worry.”

Brancaccio said they had a 200% increase in calls from people looking for food pantries.

“That was significant and that’s why you heard a lot about Second Harvest Food Bank. You heard a lot about the food pantries in the area.”

Brancaccio said the biggest challenge his staff is facing during the pandemic is just staying healthy. He said if an employee gets the virus, the hotline may have to shut down completely.

He said, fortunately, no one on staff has gotten sick.

Editor’s note: This story corrects Vince Brancaccio’s name.

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