WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Finance Health Care Subcommittee, today underscored the importance of mental and behavioral health care to as a key part of the effort to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following a recent conversation with leading healthcare providers from across Maryland, the senator spotlighted the need for expanded access to mental and behavioral health services, along with the need for strengthened internet connectivity to ensure that options like telehealth are a viable treatment option for a greater number of people.
“While we are in the midst of this pandemic, the need for access to mental and behavioral health care is extremely important, as we are seeing spikes in anxiety, depression, substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide resulting from social isolation. But we must not forget about these societal threats when quarantine ends. Rather, we must redouble our efforts to expand resources for those in need,” said Senator Cardin. “Health experts warn that many effects of trauma and prolonged stress do not become apparent until months, even years, after they occur, meaning that the impacts of this pandemic will continue long into the future and will compound many existing mental and behavioral health challenges.”
“In the last 28 days alone, NAMI Maryland has seen a 49 percent increase in website traffic, and 43 percent of all visits were to our COVID19 section. Since the beginning of April, more than 500 Marylanders have reached out to us via our helpline (410-884-8691), email, and over social media seeking mental health resources for themselves and their loved ones,” said Kate Farinholt, Executive Director of NAMI Maryland. “The COVID-19 pandemic presents a number of tough challenges: social isolation, financial distress, and fears about health and an uncertain future fuel depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use issues in our state. Remember, you are not alone. NAMI Maryland is here to help. Resources on coronavirus, crisis management, and more are available at NAMIMD.org.”
“Prior to COVID-19, our nation and state was facing a mental health crisis. Suicide rates were on the rise, and the opioid epidemic was spiraling out of control. The current pandemic has only exacerbated the problems that we have been facing as a society and further demonstrates the great demand for mental health and substance use programs and services,” said Dr. Harsh K. Trivedi, President and CEO of Sheppard Pratt. “We need to be able to support these populations most at risk and provide ongoing access to services to ensure people don’t suffer for years to come. Through Sheppard Pratt’s deep roots in 16 counties across the state and the launch of our new Virtual Crisis Walk-In Clinic and other telehealth services, we have been able to provide access to the vital mental health and substance use services people need during these uncertain times.”
“Because of the dramatic changes in our day-to-day lives, the prolonged uncertainty about the future, the impact of job losses, and the isolation people are feeling, Jewish Community Services has seen a sharp increase in calls from people struggling with anxiety, stress reactions, and depression,” said Joan Grayson Cohen, Executive Director of Jewish Community Services. “Some populations are particularly vulnerable right now, including older adults who are feeling severe isolation and special needs individuals living in our group homes who are unable to maintain routines, engage in their programs and connect with family. We are providing mental health and psychiatric services through telehealth options including video and telephone conferencing, and we have been offering online programs, small group discussions and support groups to provide community members looking for opportunities to connect, strengthen coping skills and gain support.”
“Every Marylander can help promote mental and behavioral health in their community by fighting stigmas, providing support to others, and advocating for policies that expand the options for vulnerable people around them,” said Senator Cardin. “As we commemorate Mental Health Month 2020, I urge everyone to embrace kindness, empathy and understanding in their dealings with others. Together, we can make significant strides toward improving our mutual health and wellbeing.”