BUFFALO, NY — The American Red Cross is operating a virtual Family Assistance Center to provide comfort and support, information and referrals for New York State families that have lost loved ones to the COVID-19Coronavirus. The virtual Family Assistance Center will link families to crisis counselors who will provide emotional and spiritual support, as well as information and referrals to help them navigate the challenging process they might be facing as a result of their loved one’s death.
“These families are dealing with the emotional trauma of losing a loved one, while facing logistical challenges caused by this public health emergency,” said Tara Hughes, Northeast Division Disaster Mental Health Advisor, who will be leading the virtual COVID-19Family Assistance Center program. “We’re proud to use the mass casualty experience of the Red Cross to join our community together and provide comfort and support to these families across New York State during these difficult times.”
A team of 30 specially trained Red Cross Disaster Mental Health, Disaster Spiritual Care, and Health Services volunteers will be available to support families with their emotional and spiritual needs, as well as provide information and referrals to state and local agencies as well as other community organizations to help families meet their immediate needs. This may include challenges with moving their loved one’s body through systems that may be overwhelmed and have different process than normal; legal resources for estate, custody, immigration, or other issues related to the death of their family member; information on how to obtain travel services; and more. All Family Assistance Center support will be provided virtually and is completely confidential.
Families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 can fill out an online intake form, and a Family Assistance Center volunteer will contact them:
• English: www.redcross.org/NYSCOVIDFamilySupport
Intake forms can also be filled out by a friend who thinks someone who needs help, or an agency working on behalf of the family. Those without online capabilities may call 585-957-8187, and a volunteer will assist them with the initial intake process. The Family Assistance Center is expected to operate for as long as families will benefit from the service.