The Maryland Department of Health announced Thursday that it is rolling out expanded mental health services for workers in nursing homes and long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Nursing home staff have some of the most challenging jobs,” Secretary of Health Robert R. Neall said in a statement. “Many have long-standing relationships with residents — some of the most at-risk people in our population — and they have risked their own health to continue to care for them during this pandemic.”
In conjunction with the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, the Department of Health has instituted the Maryland COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis Support Program, which is poised to provide facility staff with in-personal training on self-care and stress management, as well as virtual access to mental health professionals.
These services will also be available to staff members in person at the state’s COVID-19 testing centers at VEIP emissions testing stations. The program is funded by the federal CARES Act.
“Skilled nursing and other long-term care facility staffs have found themselves at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their dedication to their patients and their colleagues has caused incredible stress,” said Dr. Ted Delbridge, executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, in a statement.
The Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems has worked in recent weeks to help long-term medical facilities care for their patients, finding that, oftentimes, staff are faced with stressful conditions as they work with COVID-19 positive patients, endure extended workdays, witness the deaths of long-time residents and watch co-workers become infected.
Dr. Aliya Jones, Deputy Secretary of MDH’s Behavioral Health Administration, said that health care professionals are often so concerned with the well-being of others that they neglect their own needs, citing a 2019 Medscape physician survey detailing that 64% of medical professionals who have reached the point of “burn-out” do not plan to reach out for assistance.
“Unfortunately, we will be dealing with the mental health fallout from this pandemic for years to come,” Jones said. “We must recognize this problem, be as proactive and supportive as we can to address it, and encourage our frontline workers to prioritize themselves as they take care of others.”