coronavirus updates and STATEMENT ON HOSPITALIZATION
Updated August 31, 2020
The Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network has long recognized how deeply connected our mental health and physical health are, and how important it is for each of us to be able to reach our personal wellness and recovery goals.
The management team at GMHCN has been working diligently to respond to the ongoing and rapidly-evolving Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in a way that protects public and personal health, while also providing the peer support that is critical to Georgia’s public behavioral health system, families, and communities.
With that in mind, GMHCN has adopted the following measures while following current guidelines from the CDC, the Georgia Department of Public Health, and the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities:
> Tucker Home Office GMHCN is operating the home office in Tucker in a limited capacity. Please consider emailing us directly.
> The Peer2Peer Warm Line will remain open 24/7/365, providing peer support over the phone. Support is available to all Georgians experiencing anxiety or stress, or who need support through the pandemic. Please call 888-945-1414 any time.
> Georgia’s Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite Centers are open and receiving respite guests, and providing wellness activities when and where we are able. Please call before visiting any Center to verify that they are able to welcome you at the time you wish to visit, as we are strictly observing social distancing guidelines and are only able to admit limited numbers of visitors depending upon the location and activity.
> The Annual Summer Conference has been moved to February 23-25, 2021. More details will be announced as they become available.
>Thank You We appreciate your patience as we work with our employees, allies, and community partners to respond to the Coronavirus. We encourage you to stay connected, stay well, stay calm, and support your peers and neighbors when and how you are able.
Statement on Hospitalization
The Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network has consistently advocated for Georgia’s behavioral health community to be able to receive necessary supports and treatments to prevent hospitalization. It is our belief that mental health and substance use peers are better able to plan for lives of recovery, wellness, and productivity in their home or community setting. Georgia’s Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite Centers exist to provide alternatives to hospitalization, and are evidence that community-based peer support works.
At the same time, we know that not everyone has access to or knows what supports and treatments they need to stay well, and these people may experience a decline in their mental wellbeing that requires hospitalization.
COVID-19 has presented unique challenges to every organization that supports or serves large populations. Schools, hospitals, and correctional facilities are adapting quickly to different and evolving circumstances and understanding of the coronavirus. Psychiatric hospitals and crisis units face unique challenges.
While the State of Georgia is reopening from the stay-at-home order, it is still better for all Georgians to stay home whenever possible, and that means avoiding hospitalization. This is especially true for those with underlying health conditions, which includes many behavioral health peers.
With that in mind, GMHCN wants to encourage all of Georgia’s behavioral health peers to:
Seek support for new or ongoing behavioral health challenges. Most everyone is experiencing life a little differently through the pandemic. Peer support is available by telephone 24/7 at 888-945-1414. Georgia’s Crisis and Access Line can connect you to telehealth and local supports 24/7 at 800-715-4225.
Stay well! If your wellness and recovery activities have been interrupted by the pandemic, take some time to explore some new and online opportunities—there are lots of them. We know that intentional engagement in daily recovery and wellness activities helps prevent hospitalization. Georgia’s Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite Centers are providing wellness activities online daily at https://www.gmhcn.org/online-wellness-resources, where there are also links to other online activities to keep your body, mind, and spirit engaged.
Create or update your Wellness Recovery Action Plan. Many of us have created a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), but changes in access to supports may require us to make some adjustments to our WRAPs. If you would like some support updating your WRAP, please contact our Peer2Peer Warm Line at 888-945-1414. If you have never created a WRAP, learn more about participating in a WRAP training here: https://www.gmhcn.org/wellness-recovery-action-plan
Know that Georgia’s regional hospitals are working hard to provide safe environments for people who require hospitalization, and for the people who work there. For Georgians who are in crisis, hospitalization may be unavoidable. GMHCN has worked with and in Georgia’s hospitals for many years providing Peer Mentoring to people preparing to return to their communities. Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) has provided this statement for GMHCN to share with our employees and peers:
“DBHDD’s top priority is always the health and safety of the individuals we serve and our staff. In addition to standard best practices, we have taken numerous additional steps to protect individuals and staff since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In our hospitals, we began with each facility’s emergency preparedness plan (which all have as part of their Joint Commission accreditation requirements). We used these plans as a starting point for our COVID-19 response and have continually adapted as information develops, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). A few specific examples of additional health and safety measures in our hospitals include:
Establishing quarantine and isolation units for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are expected to test positive;
Testing made broadly available to hospital staff and individuals;
Stopping all non-essential visitors;
Symptom and temperature screening of all entrants onto campus, including a second mid-shift screening for all staff;
Providing personal protective equipment to staff and individuals, in consultation with DPH experts;
Implementing DPH return-to-work guidelines for staff who have tested positive or may be positive; and
Disinfection and cleaning of all areas in which activity takes place (e.g., patient care, food service, administration) with technical assistance from the Georgia National Guard.
We continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and make necessary adjustments to protect the health and safety of staff and the people we serve. In addition, we have great partners in Governor Kemp and his team, DPH, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, the Georgia National Guard, and others. All have been very responsive to and supportive of our needs.”
GMHCN looks forward to being able to provide in-person supports when and where we are able. Until then, we look forward to supporting our peers online and on the phone.
#StayWell #StaySafe #StayHome #StayConnected