Giving Compass' Take:

• Surveys from community-based mental health providers indicate that they are struggling to adapt during COVID-19 to provide the best care possible. 

• How can community-based mental health workers reach their clients that do not have access to the internet for telehealth? 

• Read about the potential for COVID-19 to cause a mental health epidemic. 

Some community-based mental health providers in New Jersey don’t have the necessary funds for the telehealth technology they need to reach patients or the personal protective equipment (PPE) required to protect staff, according to the survey.

Mental health providers—who work primarily in outpatient department day programs, through mobile outreach services, or through face-to-face services in residences and settings inside and outside hospitals—from more than 40 community-based mental health organizations responded to the survey.

The survey is a sampling of 140 provider organizations that serve more than 90,000 people with serious mental health conditions, most of whom are unemployed and impoverished and some of whom are homeless or homebound.

Here, Ken Gill, associate dean and chair in the psychiatric rehabilitation and counseling department at the Rutgers School of Health Professions, explains the findings.

What were the major challenges reported? 

The organizations reported dozens of adaptations that they made or plan to make to deliver telehealth, with varying degrees of success due to limits in their organizational infrastructure, existing technology, and an inability to move staff to more in-demand services due to lack of expertise in those areas.

However, they note they are ramping up as quickly as possible. Other adaptations include obtaining PPE from alternate sources, providing the necessary training to employees who are idle due to closures, connecting with consumers via emergency contacts, and providing community resources for consumers who have lost their jobs, [or] need food and help advocating with landlords to prevent homelessness. They also are using universal health screening protocols to serve consumers when possible if face-to-face services are still needed for psychiatric crises.

Read the full article about mental health providers by Patti Verbanas at Futurity.