COVID-19 Resource and Information Guide – NAMI CCNS – Chicagoland Mental Health
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COVID-19 Resource and Information Guide

COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

Contents

I’m having a lot of anxiety because of the coronavirus. Please help 2

I’m quarantined or working from home – lonely and isolated even further – what can I do? 3

I don’t have health insurance or a regular doctor – how can I get care? 5

What if I’m quarantined and can’t get my medication? Will there be a shortage? 6

My business is suffering as a result of the Coronavirus. What assistance programs are available to help? 7

Are people who have a mental illness at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19? 9

Is there a vaccine or cure for COVID-19? 9

I lost a loved one to Coronavirus. Where can I find support? 11

I’m a smoker. Am I more likely to catch COVID-19? What should I do? 11

How does homelessness increase risk of contracting COVID-19? 11

My loved one is incarcerated, are they at increased risk for exposure to COVID-19? 12

I’m the aging parent of an adult child living with a serious mental illness. I want to be sure they are taken care of. 13

Are there any online support resources for people with substance use disorders? 14

I’m having a lot of anxiety because of the coronavirus. Please help.

We get it. It’s hard to sift through the messages and information coming at us. Worse, the “unknown unknown” (not knowing what you don’t even know) can cause even greater anxiety for those of us who are panic-prone.

What you can do

  1. Remember that knowledge is power. Understanding the factors that affect a person’s immune response to COVID-19 will matter as much as, or more than, understanding the virus! Poor lung health caused by smoking, lack of adequate health care, suppressed immune systems, and/or populations particularly susceptible to infectious diseases, such as the elderly, have been particularly affected by COVID-19.

  2. Don’t accept everything you read or hear. Look beyond rhetoric and arm yourself with information. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides information and frequent updates on the COVID-19’s spread, severity, risk assessment, etc. To subscribe to the CDC’s email and text message service, visit CDC Subscription Service.

  3. Get your emotional support system in place:

  4. Take control and incorporate preventative measures

    • Wash your hands. See the CDC’s list of preventative measures.
    • Avoid watching, reading or listening to news reports that cause you to feel anxious or distressed. A near-constant stream of news reports can cause anyone to feel anxious or distressed. Instead, seek CDC updates and practical guidelines at specific times during the day.
    • Be supportive to others. Assisting others in their time of need can benefit the person receiving support as well as the helper.

I’m quarantined or working from home – lonely and isolated even further – what can I do?

What you can do while working from home

  • To help overcome uncertainty, normality and routine that mirrors life’s daily patterns and practices can be helpful. If working from home, we encourage you to create a structured, dedicated work environment and build in self-care as well as daily benchmarks of achievement.
  • Structure and routine may be helpful for people with mental health vulnerabilities, especially during times of uncertainty. We encourage you to maintain a regular routine with the work hours that are usually worked, including keeping up with morning rituals. Dressing in regular work attire and taking regular breaks, including lunch time, may also be helpful.
  • Research tells us that seven percent of communication is accomplished through our words, including email. 38 percent is voice and a staggering 55 percent is body language and visual. For people with mental health vulnerabilities, and even for those with extroverted personalities, the lack of face time can be challenging. Using technology to simulate this can offer a solution to bridging this gap. Be mindful of opportunities to integrate video into your conversations with colleagues. Consider using the video function on Skype or Teams for internal and external meetings.

What you can do to get support

Also, there are numerous online support communities and emotional support

hotlines to help you if you are quarantined:

Building Resilience

I don’t have health insurance or a regular doctor – how can I get care?

Having health insurance is essential for people with mental health conditions to get the right care at the right time. We recommend you buy safely by going to www.healthcare.gov to see if you qualify for affordable options:

  • All health plans offered through HealthCare.gov must cover mental health and substance use services at the same level as other health conditions.
  • Even if open enrollment is over for the year, healthcare.gov will see if you can enroll in commercial insurance because of certain qualifications. It will also see if you qualify for Medicaid, which you can enroll in at any time.

    When evaluating health plan options, consider these four things:

  • Affordability. Compare not only monthly premiums, but also deductibles, co-pays and/or co-insurance, which affect your costs if you use services;

  • Availability of health professionals. Check to see if your mental health professional(s) and other health care providers are in a health plan’s network. If they are not, find out if the insurance plan will pay for out-of-network providers— and how much they will cover;

  • Coverage of prescription medications. Find a plan that covers any medication(s) you need to maintain your wellness; and

  • Limits on mental health office visits. Check to see if a plan has limits on office visits. Also, consider differences in inpatient and outpatient coverage.

    If you can’t get insurance or need treatment right away:

    In an emergency, all emergency departments that participate in Medicare (which is most hospitals in the United States) must see you, regardless of your ability to pay.

    Federally funded health centers provide care regardless of insurance coverage or income. Many of these centers include mental health services. Find a federally funded health center near you at https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/.

    National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics at https://www.nafcclinics.org/ offers a Find A Clinic function on its website.

    For resources on medical/non-mental health (children’s health care, dental care, eye care, women’s health), the Free Clinic Directory at https://freeclinicdirectory.org/ offers a free clinic treatment locater by zip code.

    Helpwhenyouneedit.org and www.211.org allow you to conduct a zip-code-based search for local resources including affordable medical and mental health clinics, housing, food, heating assistance, etc. In many places, you can also dial 211 from your phone to access information on local resources.

    What if I’m quarantined and can’t get my medication? Will there be a shortage?

    You can ask your health care provider about getting a 90-day supply vs. a 60- or 30-day supply. If this is not possible, or if health care providers deny/decline making accommodations, challenge the decisions at least three times. Decision- makers on making health plan adjustments may change if/as conditions worsen.

    Keep in mind that many cold/flu medications should not be taken along with antipsychotics and/or antidepressants. Please consult your pharmacist or prescribing health care professional for any potential medication contraindications.

    My business is suffering as a result of the Coronavirus. What assistance programs are available to help?

    Contact your state’s department of Public Health or Small Business Services website for local programs that may be set up to provide financial assistance to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. In some areas, businesses may qualify for low-interest loans and employee retention grants.

    General financial assistance

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    • Need Help Paying Bills: www.needhelppayingbills.com

      • Provides information on assistance programs, charity organizations,

        and resources that provide help paying bills, mortgage and debt relief (financial, rent and government assistance).

    • Aunt Bertha: www.auntbertha.com
      • An online resource that connects users to free and reduced cost local resources such as medical care, food, housing, transportation and much more. Website also offered in Spanish.

    • 211 / www.211.org
      • Dial 211 from any phone (mobile or landline) or visit www.211.org to search for contact information by zip code; service refers callers to appropriate agencies/community organizations that offer emergency financial assistance; available in most areas. Website also offered in Spanish.

    • HelpWhenYouNeedIt: www.helpwhenyouneedit.org
      • An online service that connects users to over 350,000 listings nationwide of private and public resources for food pantries, stores that accept food stamps, assisted living facilities, domestic violence and homeless shelters, mental health & substance use treatment, free clinics, legal and financial assistance.

    • Help with Bills: www.usa.gov/help-with-bills
      • Provides information about government programs that help with bill payment, temporary assistance, jobs/unemployment, credit, etc. Website and Helpline also offered in Spanish.

Medical care / Hospital bills

  • The Assistance Fund: www.tafcares.org
    • For those who qualify for financial support, service provides patient advocates to assist in securing financial assistance for co-payments, prescriptions, deductibles, premiums and medical expenses. Spanish-language translation service also available.
  • Rise Above the Disorder: www.youarerad.org
    • Connects users with resources for finding a therapist, answering mental health questions and applying for grants to cover the cost of therapy.

  • Patient Access Network Foundation (PAN): www.panfoundation.org
    • Provides underinsured patients with financial assistance through disease-specific funds that provide access to progressive therapies. Spanish-language calls accepted.

  • Patient Advocate Foundation: www.patientadvocate.org – Helps federally and commercially insured people living with life- threatening, chronic, and rare diseases. Offers co-pay relief program to provide direct financial assistance to insured patients who meet certain qualifications to help them pay for needed prescriptions and/or treatment. Their website also has many other resources and services. Website also offered in Spanish.
  • HealthWell Foundation: www.healthwellfoundation.org – Provides financial assistance for underinsured to afford critical medical treatments through “Disease Funds” (note, typically for chronic physical diseases – not mental health conditions). Website also offered in Spanish.

    Prescription Medication

  • NAMI Getting Help Paying for Medications page: https://www.nami.org/find- support/living-with-a- mental-health-condition/getting-help-paying-for- medications
  • PhRMA’s Medicine Assistance Tool: www.medicineassistancetool.org – A search engine for many of the patient assistance resources that the pharmaceutical industry offers.
  • Needy Meds: (800) 503-6897 / www.needymeds.org – Offers a HelpLine and website information on financial assistance programs to help defray cost of medication. Website also offered in Spanish.
  • RX Assist: www.rxassist.org – Provides up-to-date directory of free and low-cost medicine programs and other ways to manage medication costs.
  • RX Hope: www.rxhope.com – A free patient assistance program to assist people in need obtain critical medications.
  • USARX: www.usarx.com – Provides coupons online for downloading/printing and can be brought to the pharmacy to see if it will give consumer a lower price or beat their copay.
  • Blinkhealth Prescription Assistance: www.blinkhealth.com – Individuals (with or without insurance) pay upfront for medication online and then take a voucher to their pharmacy. Accepts calls 8 a.m.-10 p.m. M-F, 9 a.m.-7p.m. weekends (EST); Spanish language option on patient assistance line.

Are people who have a mental illness at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19?

This is inconclusive.

Is there a vaccine or cure for COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Self-neglect or poor personal hygiene are common signs or symptoms of serious mental illness and pose a greater risk of exposure to germs and their spread.

What you can do

The CDC recommends the following everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases.

Personal hygiene:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Note – the CDC does not recommend that people who are well, wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19, however it  Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

    Travel/contact with others:

    • If you are sick, please stay home and seek attention from your health care provider. Do not return to work until your health care provider has told you that you can do so.
    • If you have been instructed by a public health official or a health care provider to stay home because a member of your household is sick with respiratory disease symptoms, please do so.
    • Reassess any travel plans you have in the coming months, assess your own risks and of your loved ones, and make decisions consistent with what you think is best regarding travel, and/or contact with others/crowds.

I lost a loved one to Coronavirus. Where can I find support?

Many grief support services are offered through organizations at the community level. A good place to start is to contact your local NAMI Affiliate. To find your nearest NAMI Affiliate, click on your state through the Find Your Local NAMI menu. Additional options include:

My loved one is incarcerated, are they at increased risk for exposure to COVID- 19?

The lack of sufficient, community-based treatment options has resulted in the drastic increase in the incarceration of the people with mental illness. Further, people in the

U.S. are incarcerated at a rate of about one million times per month, and the number of staff who go to work and families who visit these places is even greater. (The same goes for courts, where judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors may limit court services or even close courts.) Also, prisons and jails generally house people based on several types of security classifications, and when people are confined to a housing area of a jail or prison, there will be a tendency to keep them there, without the services they are entitled to.

What you can do

Incarcerated people have Constitutional protections under the Eighth Amendment, including the right to medical care/attention as needed to treat both short-term conditions and long-term illnesses. The medical care provided must be “adequate.” Communication with jail/prison administration is key and should start early by those who are incarcerated and/or their families.

If an incarcerated loved one is not receiving adequate care, families and caregivers may be their best advocate:

    • Contact the medical staff at the facility (note: contact may be limited/difficult due to confidentiality regulations.)
    • If a family member is permitted to bring medication to the jail (dependent on jail policy), bring the individual’s current medications and all relevant records to the facility. Be sure the medication is in the original pharmaceutical packaging with dispensing instructions.
    • If your loved one is being denied treatment:

I’m the aging parent of an adult child living with a serious mental illness. I want to be sure they are taken care of.

What you can do

Visit the NAMI Online Knowledge Center to learn about Creating a Long- term Care Plan for a Loved One Living with a Serious Mental Illness

Visit the Caregiver Action Network for tips for family caregivers on staying safe and providing care during COVID-19.

Are there any online support resources for people with substance use disorders?

What you can do

Visit these resources online:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous Online Intergroup – a directory of online audio/video meetings seven days per week.

  • SMART Recovery – an online community where participants help one another recover from addictive behaviors.

  • WEconnect and Unity Recovery – free online daily all recovery meetings.

  • Narcotics Anonymous – online meetings in various time zones using multiple platforms.

  • Herren Project – live online support groups and recovery meetings moderated by trained clinicians.

  • In The Rooms – free weekly online meetings for those recovering from addiction and related issues.

  • Learn to Cope – online support forum open to families, friends and loved ones who have someone in their lives who is struggling with addiction.

  • Al-Anon Family Groups – electronic meetings for anyone affected by alcoholism in a family member or friend.

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