PHOENIX — “This is Mary, one of the triage nurses with NOAH," said Mary Mellish as she answered a call to the NOAH Triage Nurse Line, which stands for Neighborhood Outreach Access to Health.
From her cubicle in Phoenix, she is helping take feelings of trepidation to feelings of calm.
“What have you tried today to help with your anxiety?” Mellish asked someone on the other line. “I want to try something and I want you to do it with me, OK? What I want you to do is, we’re going to do some deep breathing,”
On the other end of the line, someone is having a panic attack and called the hotline for help.
“Big breath in through your nose. One, two, three. Now I want you to kind of pucker your lips and blow it out nice and slow. One, two, three," she says.
NOAH is a federally qualified health clinic. They have offices across the Valley. People can also call the hotline, which is free and insurance is not required.
Mellish spent two years as a neuro-trauma nurse. She retired from bedside nursing after a battle with cancer. Now that she's in remission, she is using that same bedside skills out of the hospital and via a headset.
“Breath out. One, two, three. How does that feel?" she asks the call. "Awesome. You can do that anytime, anywhere."
The calls themselves are not just for mental health issues or feeling overwhelmed.
“Today I’ve had chest pain. I’ve had somebody with a bad rash. As you saw, I had somebody who was having a severe panic attack. Somebody who was potentially worried she was having a miscarriage, so it’s a wide range,” she said.
Nurses field a variety of questions and concerns, from general illnesses in adults and children to questions about medications and vaccinations, to at-home treatments for minor injuries or illnesses.
The effort behind the hotline is to make medical care more accessible, convenient, and affordable for underserved communities.
“A lot of our patients have barriers like transportation, lack of insurance, and cost barriers that we want to minimize,” said Kerry Nickerson, NOAH's director of population health.
“There are ways that the patient can manage themselves at home for quite a few of our calls actually or schedule for the future when possibly they are able to arrange for transportation,” said Cheryl Clemens, a supervisor of the Noah Triage Team.
In the few months that the hotline has been up, nurses have made sure thousands of people have received the immediate care they're looking for.
“Physically I’m getting older, I can’t do the physical bedside nursing anymore but I still want to help. This is a way I can do that and they can get the benefit of my experience,” Mellish said.
The hotline can be reached at 480-882-4545.
The hours are Monday - Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m., Sunday, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.