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Message from AMHCA's CEO

By Joel Miller posted 03-23-2020 16:39

Hello AMHCA Members:

I hope everyone is doing well given the circumstances.  As we work through this time of uncertainty during this period of COVID-!9, you’re not alone. Uncertainty and the sense of not being safe – not to mention the physical distancing, round-the-clock-news and empty grocery shelves – is common around the country.

We’re very mindful of how your email boxes are filled with COVID-19 related messages and we are utilizing our communication channels (website, social media, communities, newsletter, et al) as much as possible to keep from inundating you with too much, while still keeping communication lines open.

We are grateful for all that you –- AMHCA members -- and our partners are doing on the ground to support the health, safety, and well-being of people with mental health conditions. The AMHCA team is so proud to be working for you knowing during this crisis, as you are on the frontlines providing critically important treatments and services to vulnerable Americans who suffer from an array of conditions such as depressive, anxiety, panic, PTS, trauma-related, and other mental health disorders. We know that many people with a mental health condition – many with serious mental illness -- will see their conditions exacerbate during this period, but reassured that you are there to serve them during this time of additional needs. Clinical mental health counselors are always working for the betterment of mental health and well-being – and the total health of individuals and employ leadership, advocacy, and collaborative skills to promote systemic changes for improved public health.  Never have you been needed more. You are all a treasured American resource.

AMHCA remains committed to doing all we can to support you during this unprecedented time.  We have had in place a virtual business operation for the last two years, so we are in a position to continue to address your needs and promote your interests on many levels.  We have not missed a beat to make sure we continue to provide all the benefits that AMHCA offers uninterrupted and in a timely fashion.

If you have not had an opportunity to visit our website, please click on the following links for AMHCA resources that we have identified to try to help you through this unique period. 

Information for You and Your Practice

Information on Tele-Behavioral Health Issues

Also, keep in mind that you can find other AMHCA resources on telemental health by searching our site. You can further narrow this search by content, webpage, community and type of resource.

In addition, to make things easy, we have identified several resources below (some embodied in the links above) but we thought it would be helpful to include them in this email as one-stop shop for your convenience.

I have been thinking over the last couple of days what I can say at the conclusion of this message that can be reassuring and profound, but I can only think about these things:

“We all are in this together” – watchwords of this period for our coronavirus response.

Be Considerate:  Tell your clients, family, friends and neighbors not to hoard food, paper products, and hand sanitizer. Hoarding is not an effective American response.  It can put all of us at risk for infection.  Share fairly.

Be Risk Adverse:  The closing of restaurants, bars, and stores will increase the temptation to “get together” with family and friends, “just to get out of the house or apartment”.  Resist the risk.

Be Gregarious:  Call, email, and text families, friends, long-lost relatives frequently (and clients you have not heard from).  They need your continuing support at this difficult time. Make a list of family and friends to contact each day and set aside an hour to do so. Defeat social isolation. 

Be Together:  During these socially distanced days, you need more touch than usual with your touchable loved ones.  Make it a house rule that everyone gets a 20-second hug every two hours.  Practice human contact.   For those alone at home, if you are on Skype, Facetime, etc. – please make lots of eye contact.

Be Safe.  Be Healthy.

Joel E. Miller
Executive Director and CEO
American Mental Health Counselors Association

International and National Resources

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
COVID-19 Manage Stress and Anxiety

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation During an Infectious Disease Outbreak
COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Response and 42 CFR Part 2 Guidance

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
Medicare Telemedicine Health Care Provider Fact Sheet

United Nations
COVID-19 and Mental Health Impacts

World Health Organization
Mental Health and Psychological Considerations During COVID-19

Examples of State and Local Resources
New York State Office Mental Health
City of New York
King County, Washington
City and County of San Francisco

News Clips
Roll Call: Mental Health Care Adapts to Telehealth
The Hill: Scholastic Offers Free Education Resources Amidst COVID-19
The Hill: The mental health cost of containing the coronavirus outbreak
Forbes: How to Leas with Mental Health in Mind During Coronavirus
CNN: How to keep coronavirus fears from affecting your mental health
Fortune: Mental Health in the Time of Coronavirus
Child Mind: Supporting Kids During the COVID-19 Crisis
Psych Congress: Responding to Pandemic Coronavirus: Mitigating Population Panic and Assuring Mental Health and Substance Use Services
Ed Surge: Teacher, Interrupted: Leaning into Social-Emotional Learning Amid the COVID-19 Crisis
Slate: How to Care for Your Mental Health During the Coronavirus Lockdown
Quartz: Quarantine has serious impact on mental health. Here’s how to support yourself and others

Executive Branch News
President Trump Activates the Defense Production Act (DPA)
The President invoked and activated the DPA this week, which gives the President, among other activities, the power to prioritize government contracts for goods and services over competing customers, and offer incentives within the domestic market to enhance the production and supply of critical materials and technologies when necessary for national defense.

Below is a breakdown of the DPA:

 Title I
§  Authority to demand priority for all contracts and orders (other than contracts of employment): Allows the federal government to receive priority when it makes requests of private industries, which will force a company to fulfill a government order before it can fill any other commercial orders.

§  Authority to allocate the distribution of materials, services, and facilities to promote the national defense: Allows for the control of the general distribution of any material in the civilian market

§  Authority to allocate the distribution of domestic energy materials, equipment and services: Requires priority performance of contracts or orders, or to control the distribution of any supplies of materials, services, and facilities in the marketplace (Does not include gasoline).

§  Authority to control hoarding of “scare materials”: Designates certain materials as scarce materials or those that the supply of which would be threatened by reasonable demands of consumption, or for the purpose of price gauging.

§  Preference for small business suppliers: Can provide a strong preference for small business concerns, which are subcontractors or suppliers, located in areas of high unemployment or areas that have demonstrated a continuing pattern of economic decline, as identified by the Secretary of Labor.

Title III
§  Authority to provide incentives for essential industrial resources, technology items, and materials for national defense: Allows for loans to private businesses to create, maintain, expand, protect, or restore capacity, develop technological processes, or produce essential materials.

Title VII
§  Assurance of no liability for private industry for compliance and defense to action under antitrust laws: Allows to obtain products from private industries with assurances of protections for those industries. Immunizes companies against liability for legal damages or penalties resulting from complying with rules or regulations authorized by the DPA  Protects companies taking part in voluntary agreements for preparedness programs and expansion of production capability and supply against antitrust litigation.

§  Authority to review certain mergers, acquisitions and takeovers: Provides authority to review and suspend certain corporate mergers/transactions and to investigate the potential impact on national security of such action.


President Trump Signs COVID-19 Relief Package #2
President Trump signed the H.R 6201 Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law

The legislation includes the following:
The appropriations in the legislation include increases in funding for benefit programs like WIC ($500 million) and Commodity Assistance ($400 million). The legislation also provides $250 million to the Department of Health and Human Services for Aging and Disability Services Programs, including for home-delivered meal programs.

The legislation allows for temporary expansions in the food stamp program to account for children who cannot receive school meals due to closures and provides open-ended funding to the Secretary of Agriculture to administer this expansion. It further designates $100 million for grants to Puerto Rico, American Samoa and CNMI for nutrition assistance. 

 The legislation suspends the administration’s effort to end waivers of the longstanding food stamp work requirement for able-bodied childless adults (who would otherwise be expected to work or participate in training part time to continue collecting food stamps for longer than three months in a three-year period).

 The legislation includes a new “emergency paid leave program” for individuals diagnosed with coronavirus, quarantined in order to prevent its spread, or who are caring for someone with coronavirus, quarantined, or whose school has closed. This new entitlement program would be administered by the Social Security Administration and operate for the next year. Benefits would equal two-thirds of prior average wages, are capped at $4,000 per month, and are not taxable.  Key eligibility terms are based on self-attestation.  

 The legislation also includes a new entitlement program for “Paid Sick Days for Public Health Emergencies and Personal and Family Care,” administered by the Department of Labor.

 The legislation provides all states a share of $1 billion in unemployment insurance (UI) administrative funding, payable based on each state’s taking actions to expand access to UI benefits. Half of the $1 billion would be available within 30 days to states that expand access to UI in general such as by requiring employers to provide notice of the availability of UI to separated employees, among other terms. The other half of the $1 billion would be available only in states that experience at least a 10 percent spike in UI claims and that also express their “commitment to maintain and strengthen access” to UI in general and have eased UI eligibility requirements for those affected by coronavirus.

 The legislation promotes short-time compensation programs, revives 100 percent federal funding for the historically 50/50 federal-state extended benefits (EB) program, and provides for interest-free federal loans to states.

 The legislation requires all health plans (including Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare) to provide for full coverage of testing for coronavirus.

 The legislation increases the federal share of Medicaid costs (known as the FMAP rate) by eight percentage points, but only if states maintain or increase current eligibility and other program standards. 

 Funding in the bill is declared emergency spending. Published reports suggest the Congressional Budget Office is not expected to produce a score before the legislation is considered in the House.


Senate Republicans Release COVID-19 Emergency Aid Package #3

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released the GOP plan for the third COVID-19 emergency aid package.

The Senate is hoping to come to an agreement on a package sometime this weekend, but will likely look different from GOP package.

Section by section of the GOP bill can be found here


In Other News
Starbucks Expands Mental Health Benefits Offers Therapy to All Workers
Building on its previous efforts, the coffee chain announced on Monday that it will provide all U.S.-based employees and their eligible family members with access to 20 therapy sessions starting April 6

The sessions will be offered through mental health provider Lyra Health. Employees can confidentially search for mental health professionals who meet their individual needs and immediately book an in-person or video appointment with a therapist or coach at no cost.

In 2019, the coffee retailer hosted two sessions on mental health and emotional aid at its Leadership Experience conference, which brought together 12,000 store managers from the U.S. and Canada.

 Shortly after, the company launched an internal online forum in which employees can discuss mental health and well-being at Starbucks, and tapped into its Disability Advocacy Network to help shape ongoing initiatives.