Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for mental health care providers

As you know, The Indiana State Department of Health is continuing to confirm more and more reports of positive cases of COVID-19. The ISDH is working with federal and local partners to respond to this evolving public health situation.

In the early stages of an emerging infectious disease outbreak, there is a lot of uncertainty about the disease, its spread, scope and impact. This can lead to emotional distress, even among those who have not been, and are unsure if they will be, directly exposed to the disease. Furthermore, appropriate and necessary precautionary measures, such as social distancing and cancellation of community events, can create stress and trigger or exacerbate underlying psychiatric conditions.

We know that both medical and mental health providers are likely to encounter patients who are experiencing various levels of emotional distress about the outbreak and its impact on them, their families and communities.

Providers should acknowledge uncertainty about emerging diseases and help patients understand that there is an emotional component to potential health concerns. In addition, providers should consider the following recommendations for promoting patients’ mental wellbeing during emerging infectious disease outbreaks:

  • Stay informed on the outbreak
  • Educate patients on proper prevention techniques
  • Help patients identify and focus on areas of prevention that they can control
  • Have proper information in order to dispel myths
  • Encourage those experiencing anxiety to limit media exposure to a single credible source
  • Anticipate and counsel about reactions
  • Take care of yourself and loved ones
  • Acknowledge and provide linkages with appropriate community supports to mitigate collateral consequences

All of our Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder treatment providers offer critical services to Hoosiers, especially during times of widespread health concerns. It is critical that our providers follow their own internal disaster plans for infectious disease outbreak and enact a Continuity of Operations Plan in compliance with CMS and contract requirements. These policies should be followed while making best efforts to prevent spread of the illness.

Clients who are exhibiting symptoms congruent with COVID-19 should be offered excused absences from group and individual treatment until (1) COVID-19 infection is ruled out through definitive testing or (2) symptoms subside. It will be important that providers use creative planning in order to ensure that the client’s ability to obtain their psychiatric medication is not jeopardized by attendance policies.

At this time, it is important that everyone, regardless of age or disability, take the same precautions to avoid illness. These include everyday preventative actions to help prevent the spread of all respiratory diseases, including colds, flu and COVID-19.

Indiana is working diligently to make sure the state is prepared and communicating the latest information about COVID-19. Providers should review and update contingency plans for service delivery and implementation to ensure continuity of necessary services.

What to do now?

Please reach out to us with any questions, concerns, or to report significant disruptions in the ability to care for clients in need of services.

Jay Chaudhary, JD
Director of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction
Indiana Family and Social Services Administration
Office: 317-232-7860
jay.chaudhary@fssa.IN.gov

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