Behavioral Health & Substance Use Providers

Behavioral Health & Substance Use Providers

Challenge: Behavioral health (BH) and substance use disorder (SUD) providers are facing numerous complex challenges to continue their work providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The preventive solution for stopping the spread of COVID-19 is in direct opposition to many established best practices for delivering effective BH and SUD care, such as meeting with individuals and families face to face, whether in clinics, community settings or in-home services.  Further, individuals with significant impairments as a result of their BH and SUD condition sometimes require that they live in community environments such as group homes or residential facilities. Although telehealth options can help in many situations, that is not the case across the board. Individuals with significant conditions must receive care face to face, including the need for psychiatric medications that are administered by injection or access to medication in lockboxes in their home.

Further, as with any community emergency, the demand for services from BH and SUD providers increases as unfamiliar, overwhelming fears and anxieties escalate. These feelings impact both those with previous BH and SUD conditions and the general population as a whole. Like many other past national or local community emergencies, our nation is seeing increased demand for BH and SUD supports including increased calls to crisis lines. Past experiences with community emergencies show that, in addition to the real-time response, planning for the aftermath needs to begin immediately (e.g. devastation due to economic impact).

BH and SUD Provider Issues – COVID-19

BH and SUD providers must continue everyday operations while simultaneously addressing critical COVID-19 issues, including:

  • BH and SUD healthcare worker health and safety
  • BH and SUD healthcare worker emergency staffing capacities (e.g. increased telephonic and mobile crisis response)
  • Continuing access to psychotropic medications and highly regulated SUD medications and understanding the temporary alternative options allowed by regulators and payers (e.g. prescribing and dispensing for medication-assisted treatment)
  • Accessing available emergency funding
  • Understanding and maximizing the use of changes in reimbursement
  • Sifting through the vast array of new science and policy information and adapting practices and workflows being issued by CMS, SAMHSA, DEA, and state agencies (e.g. use of telehealth including use of telephonic services)
  • Utilizing technologies and virtual care to address multiple issues (e.g. social distancing to stop the spread of the virus while maintaining communications with patients and family members)
  • Implementing internal communication plans including plans for health protections for clients and BH and SUD healthcare workers, and implementing effective escalation procedures
  • Implementing external communication plans with public health officials, payors, social service community providers, first responders and the community at large
  • Coordinating with regional health system response efforts
    • Supply chain needs to address COVID-19, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and soap and hand sanitizer
  • Accessing and posting needed COVID-19 signage
  • Enacting emergency governance/decision-making command centers and modifying existing emergency plans for COVID-19-specific critical issues
  • Planning for the next wave – addressing increased demand for BH and SUD services as the health and economic impact grows

Addressing the Critical Unfolding Needs of BH and SUD Providers

HMA has been supporting the unique needs of BH and SUD providers for decades. HMA has both policy and clinical practice professionals (MDs, RNs, behavioral health professionals) who understand the needs of the BH and SUD populations, including those with child welfare and justice involvement and those with co-occurring mental and physical disabilities. We are adapting our tools to the current environment in real-time and supporting BH and SUD providers as they navigate through the COVID response.

At HMA, we have the contacts and expertise to help you navigate this rapidly changing landscape. Let us help you today.

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