Phone donation gives instant access to mental health support in isolation/quarantine

When King County opened its first isolation/quarantine site this March in Kent as part of its emergency response to the COVID-19 crisis, the need to support guests’ mental health in addition to their physical health was immediately revealed as a top priority.

“It would be challenging for anyone to isolate or quarantine in a hotel room for up to 14 days, and this challenge is exacerbated when you have this terrible virus,” said Isabel Jones, Deputy Division Director-BHRD Behavioral Health and Recovery Division, Community & Human Services.

 “As part of our response we wanted to be able to connect guests with their existing support services and networks immediately, including family, friends, and if they already had a counselor or clinician,” she said.

The barrier to connecting guests to their natural support systems and also provide onsite telehealth access was that many guests don’t have their own cell phone or may not have time to go get their cell phone before they come to isolation and quarantine.

A swift act of generosity from the corporate community made providing this critical care possible, even to isolation and quarantine’s earliest patients.

Premera Blue Cross, T-Mobile and AT&T act fast to make immediate impact

Within 36 hours of telling friend and former colleague, Nathan Johnson, VP of Strategic Development at Premera Blue Cross, about the need for cell phones, Jones received 100 mobile devices with unlimited voice, data and messaging plans, delivered to her home. The phones were already activated and ready for patients in isolation and quarantine to use immediately.

There have been and continue to be many community heroes stepping up in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this case, Johnson along with JT Perry, Interim CIO of Premera Blue Cross, were able to quickly connect with contacts at AT&T and T-Mobile who acted immediately to secure, set-up and deliver the smart phones with remarkable speed.

The donation has made a measurable impact on guests emotional wellbeing, and also their ability to stay in isolation and quarantine for the length of time recommended.

How the 100 phones have helped guests in isolation and quarantine

“When people arrive and don’t have a phone, it’s one of the first things they ask for and if we weren’t able to provide access to a phone right away, they may not want to stay for very long,” Jones said. “Guests have been able to use them to contact family and friends and even talk to the nurses on site, not to mention to access music and entertainment that helps them pass the time during quarantine.”

For one grateful patient, having a phone allowed him to maintain contact with his 100 valued Facebook friends, providing the social connection and support he needed in isolation and quarantine.

At another site, a guest who was deaf arrived with no phone. Staff used quick creative thinking and a phone to communicate over text. Because of the phone, they were able to effectively meet the guests needs and take care of them despite communication barriers.

As these 100 phones stand to make a difference in many more lives, King County thanks everyone who played a role in making this donation happen.