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Social service leaders on Newsday panel urge Long Islanders to seek the help they need

Local experts talk about resources available for Long Islanders facing financial hardships during the coronavirus pandemic.

Long Islanders facing financial challenges should seek help now, a panel of social service providers said.

"A lot of times, we just want to kind of hide and avoid it," said Rebecca Sanin, president and CEO of the Health & Welfare Council of Long Island, an umbrella organization for groups that support vulnerable Long Islanders. "It's super, super important to get that kind of counseling right now."

The pandemic has upended the economy and caused unprecedented difficulties for many Americans, Sanin and other social service leaders said Friday during a Newsday Live webinar on regional resources. Long Islanders should recognize they are not alone and know that local groups are ready to offer emergency food and housing assistance as well as counseling and stress relief services , they said.

"Contact us. We are here to help," said Karen Boorshtein, CEO of Family Service League, a social service agency based in Huntington. 

The Health and Welfare Council runs an emergency food and shelter program and works with Touro Law School to operate a help hotline. The nonprofit can help Long Islanders sign up for health insurance, access food stamps and connect with other service providers. For the council's guide to regional resources, see nwsdy.li/COVIDGUIDE.

The Family Services League provides shelter, counseling services and help filing for unemployment, while operating a referral system for those facing emergencies, from insufficient food to shut-off utilities and concerns about homelessness. The nonprofit has centers for those dealing with substance and mental health issues.

Newsday also has published a resource guide, available at nwsdy.li/legalhelp.

People who are unsure about which bills and concerns to prioritize should act now, Sanin said. She said Long Islanders may find they can benefit from services such as food stamps, which will allow them to divert money to other bills.

"What's really important is to start reaching out right now to all the folks that you owe money," she said. "Whether it's your car payment, whether it's your insurance — there's a lot of COVID relief opportunities that exist right now."

The Catholic Health Services of Long Island can help Long Islanders who are feeling depressed, anxious or stressed, said Dr. Lawrence Ferber, director of behavioral health central intake services.

"We think sometimes we're alone with this; nobody else knows how I feel … but a lot of us are in the same boat," Ferber said. "When we get to a certain point, it's just time to reach out and talk about this."

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Local resources

Family Service League:

Bay Shore: 631-650-0104

Riverhead: 631-591-7577

Huntington Station: 631-425-9694

Mastic Beach: 631-874-1323

Health & Welfare Council of Long Island:

Health Insurance Enrollment: 516-505-4426

SNAP/Food Stamps Application Assistance: 516-505-4437

Touro Law School Hotline: 631-761-7198

Catholic Health Services of Long Island:

Central Intake and Crisis Services: 516-705-2248

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