Adaptations and Innovations to Minimize Service Disruption for Patients with Severe Mental Illness during COVID-19: Perspectives and Reflections from an Assertive Community Psychiatry Program

Iline Guan, Nicole Kirwan, Michaela Beder, Matthew Levy, Samuel Law
Community Mental Health Journal 2020 September 15
Changes to community psychiatry during COVID-19 are unprecedented and without clear guidelines. Minimizing disruption, ensuring quality care to the already vulnerable people with serious mental illness is crucial. We describe and reflect our adaptations and innovations at one community psychiatry program, based on three key principles. In (i) Defining and maintaining essential services while limiting risk of contagion, we discuss such strategies and ways to assess risks, implement infection control, and other creative solutions. In (ii) Promoting health and mitigating physical and mental health impacts, we reflect on prioritizing vulnerable patients, dealing with loss of community resources, adapting group programs, and providing psychoeducation, among others. In (iii) Promoting staff resilience and wellness, we describe building on strength of the staff early, addressing staff morale and avoiding moral injury, and valuing responsive leadership. We also identify limitations and potential further improvements, mindful that COVID-19 and similar crises are likely recurring realities.

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