Coronavirus file photo stock of social distancing in New Orleans

With the playground taped off-limits by the city, a couple social distances in Palmer Park during the coronavirus pandemic in New Orleans, Monday, March 23, 2020. (Photo by David Grunfeld,, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate) 

State officials say they have set up a new counseling service to help people in crisis, including those concerned over the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The service is available by texting "REACHOUT" to 741741. Those reaching out will be connected to a trained counselor.

“We know this crisis has created challenges outside of those we face with a normal emergency,” said Jim Waskom, the director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. “The issues impacting many people may linger as we transition through the different phases of recovery. If you or anyone you know may be struggling with the COVID-19 crisis, please urge them to take advantage of this unique program offered by the state.”

Anyone in emotional distress or crisis who feels a chat via text would help should immediately connect in order to resolve emotions of the moment.

“This pandemic has brought much uncertainty and it is a difficult time for each of us," said Karen Stubbs, the assistant secretary of behavioral health at the  Louisiana Department of Health. "This texting resource is an addition to the other resources and materials we have been providing that address anxiety, mental health and substance use challenges during this crisis. If additional help is needed a referral can be made to the appropriate behavioral health provider.”

Those seeking help can also call 866-310-7977. The services are free and confidential.