News & Updates
May 2020 | Issue 5
Powered by Purpose | Making a Difference | COVID-19 | Research | Worth Noting | Events
Powered by Purpose
May as Mental Health Awareness Month has never felt so unsettled, or so urgently important, as it does this year. Nearly half of Americans say that COVID-19 and the public health response has had a negative impact on their mental health, yet experts agree that our existing mental health system is not prepared to meet the anticipated needs.

Recent surveys show that the combination of financial stress, social isolation, and fear of illness is taking a toll on many of us, with reported increases in anxiety, substance use, and domestic violence. At MAMH, our advocacy begins with addressing the root causes of mental and emotional distress , including ensuring that individuals and families are safe in their own homes, have access to nutritious food, and can access life-saving health care without facing stigma or discrimination.

While MAMH effectively advocates for these priorities at the state level, many relevant policy issues are addressed at the federal level, within Congress or through federal agencies. MAMH team members work as part of federal task forces and committees to advance a national agenda to ensure impact for Massachusetts residents. 

That’s why MAMH is pleased to announce our new affiliation with Mental Health America (MHA) , a national advocacy organization based in Washington, DC and supporting affiliates all around the country. Many of you will remember its precursor, the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), with which MAMH was affiliated for many years. Like NMHA, Mental Health America shares our values about social justice, early intervention, science-based advocacy, and ensuring diverse voices in policy development.

Through Mental Health America, MAMH has an effective vehicle to participate in national policy dialogues and decisions about mental health that impact people with behavioral health conditions. While our affiliation does not in any way change our independence or autonomy with respect to our policy and advocacy decisions, it does provide access to new information, perspectives, and opportunities to make a difference.

For example, thanks to advocacy efforts coordinated by Mental Health America and other national organizations, the HEROES Act , which was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last Friday, includes $3 billion for mental health and substance use funding . Almost all of this funding supports MAMH priorities such as community-based care, services for people experiencing homelessness, and trauma prevention and early intervention.  Please see Making a Difference, below, for details about this funding and next steps.

MAMH will host several events this month, including a virtual film Watch Party and Dialogue on teen anxiety, a webinar to support caregivers experiencing their own trauma responses, and an online training on substance use and co-occurring conditions for frontline staff serving older adults. I will also speak as part of a Panel for Generation Citizen, with student alumni on COVID-9 impacts.   Please see Events, below, for details. But our most important May is Mental Health Month activity is our shared commitment to promoting mental health and wellness through education, advocacy, and action.

However you choose to honor and celebrate mental health awareness this month, please be safe and know that we at MAMH are grateful for your dedication.

Danna Mauch, PhD
President and CEO
Making a Difference
On May 15, t he U.S. House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, providing $1 trillion in needed relief for Americans struggling to cope with the consequences of COVID-19. Key provisions include an additional $3 billion to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to increase mental health support during this challenging time, to support substance abuse treatment, and to offer increased outreach, including:
  • $1.5 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant
  • $1 billion for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant
  • $100 million for services to homeless individuals
  • $10 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network
  • $265 million for emergency response grants to address immediate behavioral health needs as a result of COVID-19
  • $25 million for the Suicide Lifeline and Disaster Distress Helpline

Click here to find a section-by-section summary of the HEROES Act, and click here to find the entire text of the bill.

As of today, it's not yet clear whether the U.S. Senate will take up an economic relief bill, or whether that legislation will include provisions to support mental health. Please watch your Inbox for MAMH Action Alerts and information about how you can help!
COVID-19 Mental Health Resources
COVID-19 and the public health response have resulted in more stress and worry for many families, children, and older adults in the Commonwealth. To help navigate the many services and programs that can help, Network of Care Massachusetts now hosts a new COVID-19 Behavioral Health Information Hub , w hich includes links to curated COVID-19 related information and resources on more than a dozen topics.

MAMH updates the Hub on a weekly basis with information on new state and federal laws, new guidance and regulations from the Governor and state agencies, and information on changes in services and supports. Learn more .

MassOptions has a new menu option for people who are in need of in-home services , including those who may be experiencing an interruption in services from home health aides due to the high demand and depleted resources resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak. Call MassOptions at 1-844-422-6277 or visit the MassOptions website to complete a simple referral. Learn more.

A new Massachusetts state website focused on managing isolation and loneliness during COVID-19. Learn more. As part of a new campaign, the website includes a brief video encouraging people to ask, listen, encourage, and check in with older adults and others who may be struggling during this time of quarantine and social distancing. View the video here , and share on social media!

The Social Security Administration created an FAQ to help beneficiaries quickly determine whether they need to take any action to receive economic impact payments under the CARES Act . SSA also published answers to common questions about representative payees and economic impact payments. Learn more.
Research Updates
Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health , according to an April survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). A new KFF issue brief uses this data and other research to explore the implications of social distancing practices and the current financial crisis, as well as challenges to accessing mental health or substance use services.  Learn more.

The National Institute of Health's HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-Term) initiative is funding hundreds of projects nationwide, including many designed to reduce opioid use by better understanding, managing, and treating pain. One such initiative is PainTRAINER, a free interactive, online program based on scientific research to provide users with effective strategies to manage their own pain. Learn more.

Agencies on Aging increasingly are partnering with health care organizations to address the health-related social needs of older adults and contribute to multisector coalitions that promote community health. New research published in Health Affairs shows that these partnerships result in modest cost savings and reduce the use of nursing homes. Read more.

A new online survey seeks to better understand the experiences of adults aged 50 and older in the United States who are living with at least one chronic condition (mental or physical) during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, in order to learn how the pandemic has affected their health and well-being, which will inform future strategies to improve the self-management of chronic conditions. For more information or to participate in this voluntary study, click here .

This feature in Nature about the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) director Nora Volkow provides interesting perspectives on different approaches to addiction and NIDA's research priorities. Learn more.
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Worth Noting
Older Adults Mental Health Awareness Day was May 7. While much attention has been placed on nursing homes and congregate care settings serving older adults, this article by LeadingAge LTSS Center reminds us that older adults and people with disabilities living in their own homes in the community are also at risk . Learn more . At MAMH, we are grateful for the dedicated workforce supporting older adults at home, in nursing homes, and many other settings.

This thought-provoking article in Forbes notes that working from home, using technology, and many other work accommodations to support employees during COVID-19 demonstrate that "disability" is caused by stigma and inflexibility, and social solutions are possible and feasible. Learn more.

Experts quoted in this Washington Post article warn that the nation's mental health system is not prepared to handle the growing demand for services that are expected as a result of COVID-19. Learn more.  

Heightened anxiety can tire us out and become chronic , resulting in agitation, sleep problems, and poorer judgment. In this #CrisisTalk article, Dr. April Naturale says that having a routine and using good coping skills can help. Learn more.
Even as we minimize our physical interaction with others to help control the spread of COVID-19, we can continue to stay engaged, learn new things, and connect with others in our community. During May is Mental Health Month, take advantage of the many opportunities for free, online training and resources!

Tuesday, May 19, 1:00-2:30 pm ET
We’ve all heard that we need to put our own airbag on first to care for others, but what does that mean in the context of community trauma? This webinar workshop sponsored by MAMH, the MA Department of Mental Health, and the MA Aging and Mental Health Coalition and featuring Mary Curlew will offer practical tools from trauma research and treatment that we can use to maintain our own mental health while caring for others, especially older adults, during this stressful time.

Tuesday, May 19, 3:00 pm ET
When a family member is hearing voices or seeing/sensing things we cannot, sometimes it's hard to know how to be supportive and compassionate. This interactive webinar presentation is offered by the Hearing Voices Network (HVN)-USA specifically for family members. $20 fee supports the work of HVN-USA.

Tuesday, May 19, 2:00-3:30 pm ET
This webinar with Chacku Mathai and Sae Kim explores the importance of recognizing that mental health can look quite different depending on where you come from and your unique experiences, and the impact of these issues on peer work.

Wednesday, May 20, 3:00-4:00 pm ET
Since COVID-19, calls to domestic violence hotlines and reports of intimate partner violence have drastically increased. This webinar sponsored by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will provide healthcare providers and their community partners with best practices and resources to respond to the signs of domestic violence, support victims experiencing abuse, and promote resiliency in children during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Tuesday, May 26, 6:30-8:00 pm ET
In honor of May is Mental Health Month, MAMH is hosting this watch party for Angst, a film about anxiety and how it affects children and adolescents. Join the party by viewing the 1-hour film free online, and then join a 30-minute talkback with our local panel of experts: Commissioner Joan Mikula, Dr. Mathieu Bermingham, and Lisa Lambert. Teachers, parents, and especially teenagers are invited to participate!

Thursday, May 28, 1:00-3:00 pm ET
This webinar training offered by MAMH, with support from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, introduces caregivers and others working with older adults to effective strategies to identify substance use concerns, maximize safety, and encourage healthy choices to minimize risk.

Thursday, June 4, 3:30-4:30 pm ET
This student-centered, interactive conversation, moderated by Generation Citizen student alumni leaders, will explore the impacts of COVID-19 on student learning, mental health, civic engagement, and more.

Thursday, June 11, 8:30 am - 2:30 pm ET
The NASW Nursing Home Conference 2020 will focus on leveraging and maximizing social worker expertise in residential settings with a particular focus on crisis management in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In Case You Missed It ...
Working with Older Adult Trauma Survivors
This April 28 webinar hosted by MAMH, DMH and the MA Aging and Mental Health Coalition was at maximum capacity, but the recording is available for download here .
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