Baltimore, MD – The Maryland Department of Health is proactively supporting frontline workers during the COVID-19 outbreak by sharing widespread mental health resources, joining forces with experts throughout the state, offering discussion groups and weekly webinars for behavioral health providers, and providing virtual training and recovery resources.
Health professionals across Maryland are uniting to share resources, build partnerships and raise awareness of much needed mental health support, particularly for the frontline workers facing COVID-19 every day.
“As important as our physical health and wellness is right now, we must also emphasize mental health,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “From people who are cut off from loved ones or living in difficult situations, to those working on the frontlines in stores or in healthcare settings, support is available to those who need it.”
Maryland’s helpline for mental health and substance use has experienced an increase in calls. Data collected by MDH’s Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) shows calls to “211, Press 1” increased from 1,619 in February to 2,345 in March.
BHA administrators have been urging Marylanders — especially those on the frontlines — to seek help before they reach a crisis point. BHA has created extensive resources to help healthcare workers and the general public access mental health support, including:
- New public service announcements targeting people in extreme stress situations
- Virtual recovery and wellness resources
- Suicide prevention guidance
- Mental Health FAQs for healthcare workers, parents and other audiences
- Discussion groups and weekly webinars for behavioral health providers
“It is vital that we are proactive about addressing mental health concerns,” said Dr. Aliya Jones, Deputy Secretary for BHA. “Even after the critical data points have gone in the right direction, due to the nature of the pandemic, this crisis has the potential to have a long-term impact on all of us. Disasters are known to be followed by increases in PTSD, depression, substance use, suicidal thoughts and attempts, domestic violence and child abuse. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. We can minimize increases in these after effects by taking advantage of available emotional support and treatment resources.”
BHA has created a Telehealth Resource Guide and an interactive Telehealth Map to help new patients access care. The map includes known behavioral health providers now offering telehealth services across the state.
Another new resource from BHA is Operation Roll Call, a program that offers veterans regular check-in calls and a chance to talk to someone who can offer support. An emergency contact is called if a veteran cannot be reached. Inspired in part by the Department of Aging’s Senior Call Check-in, this new resource will continue for veterans after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
BHA is sharing resources from healthcare professionals with its network of stakeholders, including:
- Virtual trainings and support for behavioral health professionals
- Information guides on websites and other resources for individuals and families
- Resources from the federal, state and local level to help address heightened levels of stress, anxiety, fear and depression
Other collaborative projects include:
- Sharing mental health resources with COVIDConnect, the state’s new website for Marylanders who have recovered from COVID-19
- Partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Maryland to disseminate messages of support and create a Mental Health Awareness Month social media toolkit
- Organizing webinars for the Maryland Primary Care Program (MDPCP) for ambulatory care providers to help support the mental resilience of frontline physician providers
- Supporting Children’s Mental Health Matters, a campaign from Maryland Coalition of Families and the Mental Health Association of Maryland to raise awareness of children’s mental health
- Promoting Behavioral Health Integration in Pediatric Primary Care (BHIPP), a program that improves access to quality mental health for children and adolescents
- Supporting Mind Resilience, a program that helps educators and organizers understand self care, well-being and a resilient mindset
BHA also is working on a new initiative to provide targeted mental health support to personnel working in skilled nursing and other long-term care facilities impacted by COVID-19.
“Nursing home staff are facing especially difficult situations, given the impact of COVID-19 on the elderly and physically vulnerable. They often work for years with residents who become like family,” said Jones. “Many of these frontline healthcare workers need mental health support now, and we cannot ask them to wait in line to get help.”
Like several other initiatives developed in reaction to COVID-19, Jones hopes to expand this resource beyond nursing homes and the current pandemic. BHA is calling on volunteers to help build support systems that will last into the future.
For COVID-19 guidance specific to behavioral health professionals, visit bha.health.maryland.gov/Pages/bha-covid-19.aspx.