Michigan mental health group partners to buy hundreds of Amazon Echos from Best Buy, Kohls to connect lonely seniors over the holidays

a mental health group is passing out free amazon alexas to lonely seniors
Photo credit Getty Images

As we all know, the holiday season can be difficult for people - particularly senior citizens - under so-called normal circumstances. However, during a pandemic, the 2020 holidays will be more distant, lonelier and fraught with greater stress.

Because of that, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Michigan Chapter is coordinating “Operation: Holiday Outreach”. for hundreds of elderly Michiganders.

NAMI MI and several other major Michigan mental health organizations are together purchasing 600 Amazon Echo Show devices from Kohls and Best Buy to distribute to senior citizens to help make the holiday season a bit brighter.

To get in on it for a senior who needs to connect, call 517-485-4049.

“NAMI MI wanted to take action – we pulled together as many resources and partners as possible to uplift Michigan senior citizens and their families during these unprecedented times," Kevin Fischer, NAMI MI Executive Director, said.

"Holidays are sometimes tough enough for older Americans, but the pandemic adds to the stress.”

While NAMI MI came up with the initial idea – CNS Healthcare, Hegira Health, Team Wellness, Detroit-Wayne Integrated Health Network and The Guidance Center all eagerly jumped in to participate. They pooled resources to purchase 600 ECHO devices at almost a 50% discount from the corporate business divisions of Kohl’s and Best Buy. The retail value of the 600 Amazon Echo devices is about $50,000.

CNS Healthcare CEO Michael Garrett, said: “CNS Healthcare has a major role in serving the mental well-being of Michiganders and this was something we immediately said ‘yes’ to.”

He added it was important that the ECHO personal assistant, “Alexa” is very user-friendly and does much more than video stream visits among family and friends.

The technology will also allow anyone in distress to ask Alexa about getting through an anxiety attack, he added. “She” will respond by providing suggestions and steps for calming the situation," Garrett said. "And, that’s not all. Alexa can be programmed to remind users to take medication on time; recite religious scripture and play any variety of soothing music, among dozens of other uses."

The Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network (DWIHN) President & CEO Willie E. Brooks, Jr., said: “DHWHN is proud to partner with our Providers in bringing some holiday joy to our senior population in Wayne County. This can be a difficult time for many, especially older citizens, who may be away from loved ones and are feeling alone and isolated.

"This is an opportunity for mental health providers to do what we do best, care for some of our most vulnerable residents, and help them connect with family and friends during the holiday season.” Karlton Akins, Team Wellness Executive Director of Public Relations, said: "With everything going on with COVID19, we're seeing a lot more need for telehealth. In the first month of the pandemic, we had more than a thousand requests for remote access.."