While the pandemic continues to surge throughout the world, the stress on people’s lives rises as rapidly as the daily numbers of positive cases. Especially in America. Fortunately, for those in North Dakota, there is a way to help talk to someone about the stress.

Pamela Sagness, the executive policy director for behavioral health in the Department of Human Services, said in an interview a new tool titled, Project Renew is helping pedestrians talk about their stress in an anonymous hotline specifically for the stress caused by COVID-19.

“With Project Renew, we were able to set up services so that you can learn more about your local community and what’s available,” Sagness said. “We have representatives from around the state that know locally what’s happening.

“The hotline is available Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. [CT] and so that’s how you can connect better with what resources are available,” Sagness added. “Connect to whether it’s coping strategies, we can provide brief support and listening services and also connect individuals with other community resources and agencies … all free and anonymous to North Dakotans.”

While Project Renew helps those searching for someone to listen or is questioning their mental state, Sagness said the project helps give tips to handling the stress and pressure, before it becomes a major problem. The project also helps parents during these unpredictable times as well as those struggling with their jobs.

“Co-parenting during a pandemic, it’s really hard,” she said. “We have resources for that … we also have an employer tool kit that’s connected on our behavioral health website that has everything like, ‘how can an employer support their employees during this time? What are some best practices? How do you ensure that you’re supporting the wellness and mental health of your employees? There’s just a ton of great resources.”



Sagness said Project Renew was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and was able to help fund the project, thanks to the Presidential Declaration for a disaster, making the funding available for the state.

Sagness mentioned Project Renew has already been a major benefit to helping others, especially based on the current pandemic.

“I think, in North Dakota, we’re used to disasters that are more natural, like a flood, a fire, tornado, the types of things where there’s like physical impact and it’s immediate and it’s devastating, but it’s targeted to one location,” she said.

While COVID-19 has transitioned into being seen as a potential political dispute, Sagness said this is not what the project is intended for.

“The main thing is that what we’re offering isn’t a political statement whatsoever,” she said. “Everyone has been impacted in some way, whether it was people transitioning from working in an office to working at home, or they’re an essential employee and they’ve had hours change and had to wear masks … or not being able to be with a loved one, whether it’s in birth or death or cancelling monumental moments like weddings.”

Sagness mentioned the Project will continue to expand and bring more opportunities and health benefits to those in need.

For more information, log onto https://www.behavioralhealth.nd.gov/covid-19 or to use the hotline, please call, 701-223-1510.