There are few businesses more essential than mental and behavioral health treatment. Sure, with the onset of COVID-19 that same treatment has become more difficult to deliver, but treatment facilities, therapists, counselors, psychologists and all licensed medical professionals have consistently found new ways to address mental health concerns from safe distances.
Social distancing practices have made it more difficult for anyone affected by substance abuse challenges, disorders or mental health challenges to receive the full care they need. Depending on the state you live in and the specific level of care you need, you’ll find different safety measures in place as a direct response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
We’ve outlined 4 questions to ask your mental or behavioral treatment center, about their response to the pandemic and the treatment you can expect to receive in the weeks and months to come.
1. Is your treatment center allowing patients inside during the pandemic?
This is likely the first question worth asking when it comes to each individual treatment center: are their doors open? Depending on the type of treatment offered, and the state in which the treatment center is located, the center could offer full open hours, limited open hours, or no open hours at all during the day.
Since the onset of COVID-19, many treatment centers successfully updated their hours of operation, on both their own websites and on online directory listings like Google My Business and Apple Maps. However, there are still some locations with outdated hours and incorrect visitation restrictions listed online. We suggest that before you visit a treatment center, even if you’ve been there many times before, you call to verify that the hours and the restrictions you see online are still current.
2. Does your treatment center offer a virtual treatment or communication option?
COVID-19 has likely caused businesses to ask one question more than any other: can it be done virtually? From virtual grocery shopping to business meetings, vacations to substance abuse treatment, virtual living has taken the place of in-person interaction for many applications today. And behavioral and mental health treatment centers are no exception: many locations are now offering virtual therapy, virtual counseling and virtual treatment options, either in conjunction with in-person visits or entirely as a substitute, until the pandemic subsides.
Ask your specific treatment center a few questions about the status of their treatment. If they’re offering in-person treatment, why did they elect to do so? Can they speak to the safety measures put into place to ensure that in-person interactions aren’t an active infection threat? And if they have substituted in-person treatment for virtual options, what steps have they taken to ensure that you receive the full extent of your care from a distance?
In other words, you’ll want to make sure that your treatment center takes your health just as seriously from a distance as they once did in person.
3. How are onsite staff prepared to handle COVID-19 symptoms?
If your specific treatment center is still allowing in-person visits, you’ll also want to ask how the staff is handling sanitation and symptoms on the premises. Are they allowing anyone onsite who has exhibited symptoms at any point? How often are they actively sanitizing surfaces, door handles and public facilities?
It’s also a good idea to ask how COVID-19 has affected their staff, or patients, specifically. Has anyone at the location contracted COVID-19 over the past 14 days? Have they had any patients retroactively experience symptoms, before or after attending an in-person session? If you can get a better idea as to how the treatment center is handling symptoms and working to actively prevent them, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about how best to receive your care moving forward.
4. How is the addiction treatment center’s response aligned with federal CDC guidelines?
There are voluntary safety measures, and then there are federally-required CDC guidelines that businesses are required to take, in order to remain active to any extent. However, just because CDC guidelines are put forth, does not mean that they are always met. We recommend that you familiarize yourself with the most recent, comprehensive COVID-19 guidelines put forth by the CDC, that clearly outline purpose and fulfillment of necessary safety measures. Feel free to reference those guidelines here.
Whether it’s separating sick from healthy employees or employee education, when it comes to taking care of family members, the CDC outlines comprehensive parameters that need to be followed in order to promote a continually-safe workplace environment.
Safe, effective treatment during COVID-19
That’s the goal: achieving continually-safe treatment through the pandemic. And whether that’s accomplished through virtual counseling or in-person therapy, safety and recovery will remain the priority. Before you step foot through familiar (or new) treatment center doors, we recommend asking your treatment center at least some of the above questions, or referencing their website to see if any have been anticipated and answered.
Just like it’s your job to take treatment seriously and progress toward recovery, it is the job of a treatment center to continually offer a safe, redemptive environment. And that safe setting is found when facilities adopt the necessary precautions and safety measures to ensure that COVID-19 does not compromise your quality of treatment.