In COVID crisis? LSS/state program provides free counseling to all those affected by pandemic

LSSND team members Terri Burns and Abby Tow recently sat down to talk about Project Renew — a FREE and anonymous counseling service that is available for all North Dakotans.

Terri Burns is the team lead for Project Renew and Abby Tow is the director of Community Engagement at LSSND.

Abby Tow: Can you tell us real quickly what Project Renew is, Terri?

Terri Burns: Project Renew is a partnership between Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota and the state of North Dakota. We are funded by grants from FEMA and SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), and we are providing free, confidential crisis counseling to anyone across the state who has been affected in any way by the COVID-19 pandemic — whether that’s physically, financially or emotionally.

AT: That’s amazing. We all have been through something, so how would somebody know if they should be asking for help?

TB: We’ve all been affected by COVID-19 — whether we’ve had someone who has been affected physically by the illness, whether we’ve had to adjust to working from home with children underfoot, whether we’ve lost our jobs, or even just more routine, lifestyle things. Things like losing a family member to another illness, but you haven’t been able to have a funeral. If you had your baby shower canceled. If you welcomed a new baby and weren’t able to introduce them to family members. It’s an enormous amount of stress. If your usual coping skills aren’t working through this — if you’re finding that you’re having more headaches or you’re feeling anxious or you’re having a hard time concentrating — this would be the time to reach out and talk to someone. It’s free. It’s confidential. It’s a stranger, and sometimes it’s a lot easier to talk to someone who isn’t involved.

AT: Absolutely. How does the process work? How does somebody connect with Project Renew and LSS?

TB: They would call our wonderful intake coordinator, Lesley. Lesley will take a very simple set of information. She will take your first name, your telephone number, the city you are in and the best time of day to call you. Then, one of our trained crisis counselors will give you a call at the time that works best for you and simply check in and ask how you are doing.

AT: And, again, how much is this?

TB: It’s totally free, which is the best part!

AT: And who is it for?

TB: It’s for anyone across the state — regardless of age — who has been affected in any way.

AT: Does it matter how much money you make or if you don’t make any? It’s open for everybody, right?

TB: Absolutely anyone. There are no requirements other than being in North Dakota.

AT: Thank you so much for taking the lead on this, Terri. Thank you for connecting people to healing and hope.

TB: Thank you, it’s a wonderful project to be a part of.

If you need help navigating new routines, coping with anxiety and uncertainty or just need somebody to talk to, turn to LSSND and Project Renew.

To get in touch with a trained crisis counselor, call 701-223-1510, email or visit

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