As local residents are isolated in their homes during the COVID-19 crisis, it is important for them to take time each day to reflect on how they are feeling, both physically and emotionally, the director of a community mental health center said.


“This is a time for us to really kind of reflect to make certain we know how we are feeling and be able to express that to caring others,” Keith Rickard said.


Rickard, executive director of The Guidance Center, spoke Wednesday during a virtual town hall meeting hosted by Leavenworth Mayor Mike Griswold.


Rickard said it is important now more than ever for people to do normal things to stay physically healthy such as having a good diet, getting enough sleep and exercising.


“When you start with a healthy body, you can manage life’s stresses much more easily,” he said.


He said people also need to take care of their minds.


He said staying at home as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak is getting old for many people.


“We’re all experiencing some different emotions,” he said.


Rickard said it may be normal for people to feel sadness or frustration and irritation at this time. But he said it is important for people to know whether they are experiencing a normal response or slipping into a more serious condition such as depression, anxiety or even suicidal thoughts.


Rickard said it is important for people to stay connected with others during this period. And he said the situation has led people to find creative ways to make this happen.


A statewide stay-at-home order is scheduled to remain in effect until May 3. The order allows people to leave their homes for essential activities such as buying groceries or visiting the doctor.


Rickard said The Guidance Center continues to operate during the COVID-19 outbreak. He said the The Guidance Center offices in Leavenworth are largely closed to the public. But the doors remain open so people can access the center’s pharmacy and receive crisis assistance.


He said the therapy staff at The Guidance Center are providing services through a telehealth format.


Rickard said there has been a significant dip in the money The Guidance Center receives from third-party payers. But The Guidance Center has received significant funding through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. He said the program has provided The Guidance Center with about two months of funding to pay for things such as employee salaries and benefits.


He said people needing services from The Guidance Center can call 913-682-5118 during normal business hours. After hours, people can call 888-260-9634.


Rickard also provided the number for the national suicide help line, 800-273-8255.


During Wednesday’s virtual town hall meeting, Rickard commented on the decision by the Leavenworth County Mental Health Task Force to ask that a tax question be removed from the ballot for the August primary election.


Rickard and Griswold are members of the task force.


Leavenworth County commissioners previously approved placing a proposed county tax increase on the ballot at the request of the task force.


Members of the task force were seeking voter approval of a tax increase to pay for an additional $1.164 million in funding for local mental health services.


The leadership of the task force recently asked commissioners to remove the question from the August ballot. And commissioners voted Wednesday to have the question removed from the ballot.


Rickard said during the virtual town hall meeting that it seemed inappropriate and insensitive to ask voters to approve a tax increase when they are struggling financially as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.


“The need certainly has not diminished,” Rickard said. “The need is still very much there. But these are unusual times.”


Griswold said task force members have not given up on the proposal. He suggested task force members could ask county commissioners to place the tax question on a ballot for as early as the November general election if conditions improve.


Wednesday marked the sixth virtual town hall meeting hosted by Griswold. He is planning to have another virtual town hall at 11 a.m. April 29. The meetings are live-streamed on the city of Leavenworth’s Facebook page. The meetings also are broadcast live on the city’s government access channel, which is channel 2 for cable customers in the city.


Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR