April 16, 2020
Deidre McCabe, Director, Office of Communications, 410-767-3536
Charles Gischlar, Deputy Director, Office of Communications, 410-767-6491
Maryland Department of Health develops extensive behavioral health guidance during COVID-19 pandemic
Baltimore, MD – The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) has developed and disseminated broad resources and guidance to help Maryland’s behavioral health community navigate the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, offering much needed support to providers and patients.
MDH’s Behavioral Health Administration (BHA), which serves approximately 3,500 providers and 278,000 people statewide, is supporting the public behavioral health system and ensuring continued access to services, despite necessary changes due to the state’s stay-at-home order.
“Throughout this unprecedented and rapidly unfolding situation, we know that leadership and robust communication are imperative to ensure the health and safety of our healthcare workers and the Marylanders we serve,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “BHA is leading this charge for the residents it serves, ensuring they continue to get the needed treatment and support.”
BHA’s recent work includes:
- Helping to expand and strengthen telehealth and telephonic options
- Offering providers transition guidance to move from live to virtual service so they can stay open and connected to patients
- Using unspent grant funds to assist with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers
- Supporting federal decisions to relax take-home medication requirements for stable patients in order to reduce foot traffic in treatment programs
- Extending renewal deadlines for certificates and licenses
In addition to helping providers stay safe while their facilities remain open, BHA is working with the provider community to alleviate fears and answer questions. BHA staff set up weekly calls and webinars for opioid treatment providers, residential substance use disorder treatment providers, and recovery residence providers so they can share best practices and ensure minimal disruption in service access. BHA also implemented weekly meetings with the Maryland Behavioral Health Authorities, the local managers of behavioral health services, to identify jurisdictional issues.
To further ensure streamlined communications for professionals, BHA developed a dedicated COVID-19 webpage on its website, introduced a designated email address, and created a Google form where concerns and issues related to COVID-19 can be addressed quickly.
Further supporting behavioral health professionals, BHA is releasing near daily communications, including guidance documents and three sets of regularly updated FAQs.
Resources developed for the public include PSAs on recognizing anxiety and depression, a Deaf and Hard of Hearing Communication guide, and a Recovery and Wellness Resource guide listing virtual support groups for people in recovery to safely stay connected. BHA is also posting social media messages on mental health, substance use disorder, and problem gambling to connect people to needed resources.
“I am encouraged by the collaborative resourcefulness of our behavioral health community, the leadership of Governor Larry Hogan, Secretary Neall and other state agency secretaries, and the resilience and spirit of our staff,” said Aliya Jones, Deputy Secretary for BHA. “I believe we can come out of this crisis even stronger than before. We are helping people remain safe and well, while strengthening systems that meet the current and future needs of our community.”
For COVID-19 guidance specific to behavioral health professionals, visit bha.health.maryland.gov/Pages/bha-covid-19.aspx.
For information and resources regarding COVID-19, visit coronavirus.maryland.gov.
The Maryland Department of Health is dedicated to protecting and improving the health and safety of all Marylanders through disease prevention, access to care, quality management and community engagement.
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