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April 10, 2020
CLICK HERE for Links to State Guidance and Updates on COVID-19
Advancing Public Policies for people with Mental Illness, Substance Use Disorder and/or Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities
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Francine Sinkoff, Editor

Rensselaer County Sees Overdose Increase Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Schoharie County ARC readjusts services to aid disabled through COVID-19

Mental health practice transitions to video sessions - Orange

Overdose cases on the rise in Niagara County during COVID-19

Drug Programs Now Facing Two Health Crises

Opioid treatment programs are now working through concurrent health crises.

Patients rely on the facilities for obtaining medication-assisted treatment. But providers are trying to reduce the number of in-person visits and the risk of patients being exposed to  Covid-19.

"The reality is, the opioid crisis has not gone anywhere," said Allegra Schorr, president of the Coalition of Medication-Assisted Treatment Providers and Advocates of New York State. "These two crises crashing into each other is the big fear."

To help ease some of the strain, opioid treatment programs have turned to telemedicine and take-home doses of medications. Read more here.
In 'Hidden Valley Road,' A Family's Journey Helps Shift The Science Of Mental Illness
Hidden Valley Road

There are still many questions about schizophrenia - what it is, what causes it, and how to treat it.

One family has helped researchers take steps forward in attempts to find answers to these questions.

The Galvins seemed like a model for baby-boomer America, 12 children with a military dad and a strict but religious mother growing up in Colorado in the 1960s. But over the years, six of the boys in the family were diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Writer Robert Kolker, the bestselling author of  Lost Girls, tells the story of the Galvin family - and how their journey is transforming the science around the mental illness - in a new book,  Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family. Read more here.

Psychiatrists Lean Hard On Teletherapy To Reach Isolated Patients In Emotional Pain

The Loneliness of the "Social Distancer" Triggers Brain Cravings Akin to Hunger

Headspace and New York Governor Cuomo's Office Team Up to Release 'New York State of Mind' Free Meditation and Mindfulness Content Hub Curated for New Yorkers

Coronavirus Shows That Responses to Complex Public Health Challenges Require All Hands on Deck

Mental health benefits are becoming America's most competitive office perk in the age of coronavirus

The psychological effects of coronavirus quarantine and what you can do about it

Parental Training to Reduce Child's Anxiety Can Be As Effective as Child Therapy

Making Sense of Uncertainty: A Discussion with New York City Metro Area Clinicians & A Peer Specialist On Impact of COVID-19 On Psychiatry From The US Epicenter - Webinar #1
April 14, 12 - 1 pm, PsychU

Making Sense of Uncertainty: A Discussion with New York City Metro Area Clinicians & A Peer Specialist On Impact of COVID-19 On Psychiatry From The US Epicenter - Webinar #2
April 14, 3 - 4 pm, PsychU

A Framework for Performance Measurement in Mental Health Crisis Services Webinar
April 14, 2 - 3 pm, SAMHSA's GAINS Center

From In-Person to On-Screen: Best Practices in Telemental Health with Children & Adolescents
April 16, 1 - 2 pm, Child Maltreatment National Peer Learning Team

April 16, 1 - 2:30 pm, SAMHSA TA Network

April 20, 12 - 1 pm, PsychU

Integrating Peer Support to Expand the Workforce for Individuals with Behavioral Health Challenges - Part 2
April 20, 1:30 - 2:30 pm, SAMHSA's GAINS Center

1135 Waivers in Action: Flexibilities, Limits and Next Steps for States and Providers
April 21, 1 - 2 pm, Manatt Health

April 21, 3 - 4 pm, Prevention Technology Transfer Center Network

April 28, 2 - 3 pm, Open Minds
Use of Telemedicine & Technology in the Treatment of Mental Health During the COVID-19 Crisis - Webinar #1
April 29, 12 - 1 pm, PsychU

April 29, 1 - 2 pm, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Health Care

May 6, 12 - 1 pm, PsychU


APRIL 2020

Children & Families Committee Meeting
April 21: 11:30 am - 1 pm, GTM

MAY 2020

Executive Committee Meeting
May 6: 8 am, GTM
Developmental Disabilities Committee Meeting
May 14: 1 - 2:30 pm, GTM

Children & Families Committee Meeting
May 19: 11:30 am - 1 pm, GTM

CLMHD Full Membership Call
May 20: 9 - 11:30 am, GTM

CLMHD Office Closed - Memorial Day
May 25

Contact CLMHD for all Call In and Go To Meeting information, 518.462.9422 
Counties Urge Swift Federal Action to Protect Local Services

The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) on Thursday sent a  letter to the New York Congressional Delegation calling on congress to swiftly pass a fourth stimulus bill that provides additional funding for counties and the State of New York.

Specifically, the counties are supporting Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's request seeking an increase in federal Medicaid assistance and unrestricted federal funding to address lost revenue and an increase in need for social services provided through New York's counties.

Counties are looking for support for funding and administering a wide array of social services-TANF, HEAP, child support, child welfare services and adult protective services-that are of increasingly vital importance during the COVID-19 pandemic and the acute economic slowdown brought on by social distancing. Read more here.
Recommendations from County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors 

On March 25 and April 1, the National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors (NACBHDD) held town hall meetings with members. The purpose of these meetings was to understand the impact of the coronavirus crisis on behavioral healthcare and to identify the urgent needs of the behavioral health field that must be placed before Congress as it considers additional coronavirus legislation.

The key recommendations to Congress are as follows:

Systemic changes
  • Challenge: County response to the coronavirus crisis has not yet been organized. Action: Provide resources and technical assistance to organize a core leadership group in each county to include, at minimum, representatives of the county health, behavioral health, public health and corrections programs, as well as representatives of the private sector.
  • Challenge: State Medicaid response is unduly slow. Action: Develop a mechanism whereby the federal government can override aspects of individual state Medicaid rules and waivers to implement consistent rules across states during times of a national emergency, without states needing to complete separate waiver requests for the change. For example, the ability to provide Medicaid services via telephone is essential during the COVID-19 epidemic. 
Read more here.
SAMHSA Grant Opportunity: State Opioid Response (SOR) Technical Assistance

Application Due Date: Monday, June 8, 2020

SAMHSA is accepting applications for the State Opioid Response (SOR) Technical Assistance (TA) grant. This grant will be provided to a single entity who will serve as the central coordinating point for ensuring the requirements of this funding opportunity are met. The purpose of this program is to identify local physicians, clinicians, and other providers (advance practice nurses, physician assistants, peers and other healthcare professionals) with expertise in prevention, treatment, and recovery services for opioid use disorders (OUDs) and stimulant use disorders. The goal of this TA grant is to ensure the provision of evidence-based prevention, treatment, and recovery support programs/services across the SOR program.

Click here to apply.
COVID-19 Care Access Concerns for Populations with Mental Illness

Efforts to support patients with serious mental illness and the providers who treat them will be essential for driving access to care and mitigate risk among the COVID-19 outbreak, wrote Benjamin D. Druss, MD, MPH, in a JAMA Psychiatry  viewpoint .

The spread of the novel coronavirus has shone a light on vulnerable populations, underscoring the social determinants of health and risk factors that drive health inequity. Patients with serious mental illness are among these hardest-hit populations.

Populations with serious mental illness may begin to experience serious  access to care issues, for example. Medical personnel are being redeployed to help treat patients with COVID-19, and social distancing protocol are keeping some patients with mental illness from their regular office visits with therapists or psychiatrics. Read more here.
FCC Adopts $200 Million COVID-19 Telehealth Program 

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission voted to adopt a $200 million telehealth program to support healthcare providers responding to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Congress appropriated the funds as part of the CARES Act. Through the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, the FCC will help healthcare providers purchase telecommunications, broadband connectivity, and devices necessary for providing telehealth services. Funding applications from healthcare providers will be processed on a rolling basis. 

The FCC also adopted final rules to stand up a Connected Care Pilot Program. This separate three-year Pilot Program will provide up to $100 million of support from the Universal Service Fund (USF) to help defray health care providers' costs of providing connected care services and to help assess how the USF can be used in the long-term to support telehealth. Read more here.

The Covid-19 Crisis Too Few are Talking About: Health Care Workers' Mental Health

In the midst of this global pandemic, people are talking about the urgent and critical need for personal protective equipment. They are sharing concerns about the impending lack of  respirators 
and the need for testing. And they are encouraging people to #flattenthecurve through  social distancing. 

But no one is talking about a potential mental health crisis facing health care workers on the frontlines of this pandemic.

To an outside observer, health care workers look strong and resilient in the face of the unknown. They inspire us as they go to work every day, at great personal risk, to keep others safe.

But, as a psychiatrist, I spend much of my life observing and listening - I know that their calm surface appearance is the only armor they have left. Underneath it, many health care workers are barely keeping it together. Read more here.
SPARK, the Largest Study of Autism Families in the U.S., Announces Findings on Effects of COVID-19

When COVID-19 arrived in  New York, Dr.  Wendy Chung, principal investigator of the SPARK study and a physician in  New York City, knew that this was a singular moment in time. She wanted to understand how the pandemic was affecting families with autism across the country - in real time - and then share what she found with the community. She sent SPARK study participants a quick but important survey. SPARK, the largest study of autism families in  the United States, was designed to allow for this kind of rapid data collection and sharing of information.

Before SPARK, many families had never participated in autism research, and scientists struggled to find participants for their studies. SPARK fills this gap with over 230,000 participants currently enrolled, and counting. To date, SPARK has matched over 65,000 families with 60 outside studies on topics like services and treatment patterns, anxiety, and social skills. Importantly, SPARK also maintains, and is still recruiting for, the largest genetic data set of autism families to date. Read more here.
Anthem Announces Additional Resources for Consumers, Care Providers and Community Partners to Deliver Whole Health Care Support and Relief in Response to COVID-19

As the nation comes together to address the COVID-19 crisis, Anthem is delivering support and relief to all those affected as part of our ongoing commitment to improving lives and communities. Today, Anthem is announcing a number of new resources and initiatives developed in partnership with leading community and health partners to provide support for the whole health needs of individuals, families and communities.

"We remain committed to the needs of the whole person-both physical and emotional-as we battle this healthcare crisis together," said Anthem President and CEO Gail K. Boudreaux. "Addressing whole health needs, such as food, housing and behavioral health concerns is an important part of our mission to improve lives." Read more here.
Speaking Of Data For Decision Making, More Data Is On the Way

I was reminded of the problem we have with U.S. health system data after reading  Restrictions Are Slowing Coronavirus Infection, New Data Suggest last week. The data showed a rapid drop in the number of fevers. And where was the data from? It was from 162,000 daily temperature readings shared by Kinsa Health, a producer of internet-connected thermometers. And that is not a typical source of information on public health. This pandemic emergency demonstrates the health care field's lack of interoperability, which makes it difficult to have "systemic" data to guide decisionmaking or to get a "complete picture" of an individual's health at the point of treatment.

Let's hope we have laid the groundwork for solving this problem in the future. On March 9, two U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies-the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) unveiled two companion rules, one on interoperability and one on information-blocking, to make it easier for provider organizations, insurers, and consumers to exchange health data and give consumers control of their health records at the same time.

The  CMS Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule is focused on driving interoperability and consumer access to health information by requiring data sharing among Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, CHIP, and qualified health plans sold on federally-facilitated exchanges. It was interesting to note that CMS calls this "liberating" the data. Read more here.
The Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors advances public policies and awareness for people with mental illness, chemical dependency and developmental disabilities.  We are a statewide membership organization that consists of the Commissioner/ Director of each of the state's 57 county mental hygiene departments and the mental hygiene department of the City of New York.