Helena Red Cross volunteer virtually helps those suffering during pandemic

Posted at 2:39 PM, Aug 16, 2020

HELENA — Families struggling with the loss and grief from COVID-19 can get support from the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross began the Virtual Family Assistance Center with mental health, spiritual care, and health services volunteers. One Helena volunteer is part of this network.

Abbie Colussi is the Regional Disaster Mental Health Lead in Montana and Idaho for the Red Cross. Although she has been volunteering for three years, Abbie served a two-month term virtually in 2020. Something she says is not typical in her line of work. "Being a mental health volunteer, we're always there. We're always used to being in-person with the individual, being able to hug them, being able to console them, a hand on their shoulder. We weren't able to, obviously, do that," says Colussi.

Because of the pandemic, the Red Cross has stopped deployments. However, the same services are provided, but over the phone through the Virtual Family Assistance Center that Colussi says began in May 2020.

Abbie Colussi, a Helena volunteer, served two months virtually with the center as a Disaster Mental Health Lead

"It's a national database. The phone call gets forwarded to your cell phone. And then, you kind of take some background information and take information from them, seeing what their support is, what they need virtually with some kind of connection to local resources,” says Colussi. “Or, if they did lose a family member, can they, do they know how to have a memorial service or funeral service, not really being able to gather with other individuals?"

And if needed, Colussi also says she would follow up with individuals to see how they were doing. Overall, Colussi feels grateful to help others in the pandemic. "Definitely hearing the stories, you know? People living in their cars because they have lost their job or their place of residence due to the disease. I'm very thankful that I haven't been impacted, but yet, I'm able to give back to people who have been affected," says Colussi.

Anyone suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic is encouraged to contact the Red Cross. Click here to visit the Red Cross Virtual Family Assistance Center. Their direct call number is 833-492-0094.