Texas Health and Human Services Commission
HHS Executive Commissioner
Date: June 23, 2020
Contact: Ty Bishop, 512-424-6951
State Hospitals, State Supported Living Centers Create
Pen Pal Programs During COVID-19 Pandemic
Volunteers Sent More Than 900 Letters and Cards to Residents and Patients
AUSTIN – State supported living centers and state hospitals across Texas are using pen pal programs to help their residents and patients stay connected with their communities during the pandemic.
“As part of our dedication to provide the best care possible at state hospitals and state supported living centers, our staff has developed unique ways to help residents and patients cope with feelings of isolation caused by the pandemic,” said Mike Maples, HHS deputy executive commissioner for the Health and Specialty Care System. “With the newly created pen pal programs, people receiving care in our facilities have been able to maintain social interactions with volunteers.”
Residents of living centers include people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and patients of state hospitals include people with mental health issues. Socialization is an important part of maintaining good mental health. Due to COVID-19, group activities, communal dining and visits with relatives and volunteers have been limited to prevent the spread of the virus.
Pen pal programs at several state hospitals and state supported living centers allow members of the community to send encouraging letters and cards to residents and patients. Volunteers can send positive messages, drawings, or stories about what they are doing for fun. Volunteers throughout Texas have already sent more than 900 cards and letters, and some have received responses as part of the program, which facility staff help to coordinate.
People who are interested in volunteering can fill out a volunteer application here. For information about how to join the pen pal program, e-mail VolunteerHHSC@hhsc.state.tx.us to learn about the participating facilities which include Austin State Hospital, Austin State Supported Living Center, Richmond State Supported Living Center and San Antonio State Hospital.
About State Hospitals and State Supported Living Centers
Texas Health and Human Services operates 10 state hospitals and 13 state supported living centers in Texas. State hospitals provide inpatient psychiatric care to adults, children and adolescents. State supported living centers provide residential treatment and training services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are medically fragile or who have behavioral issues.