The National Council for Behavioral Health announced Tuesday it would begin distributing 2.3 million surgical face masks to mental and behavioral health organizations that had previously been unable to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE).
The move is an effort to protect the staff of organizations working with those struggling with mental health and addiction issues, who risk exposure to the coronavirus while treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our member organizations are on the frontlines and risk exposure to the coronavirus every day as they treat those living with mental health and substance use challenges,” National Council for Behavioral Health President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia said. “Clinicians are going out to meet clients where they are, whether it’s at their homes or in public places on the streets, so we launched a massive effort to find PPE and address an enormous need for the life-saving equipment.”
Through a survey of its members in April, the council found that 86 percent of community behavioral health does not have enough PPE to last for two months. Only 7 percent of the organizations surveyed said they had adequate supplies of PPE.
“Health care and behavioral health care providers work side-by-side, but in so many cases, behavioral health care workers are deprived of the PPE their colleagues are provided. We would not expect half an army to go to war without necessary protection, but behavioral health care providers are expected to go to battle in this pandemic without the resources to keep them safe,” National Council for Behavioral Health Board Chairman and Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Sheppard Pratt Health System Jeff Richardson said.
To address the demand, the council began a global search for masks and informed its members it would make the masks available at cost to its members. More than 1,000 behavioral health care providers placed orders with the council, and delivery of those orders began this week.
The council said it continues to urge Congress to provide funding support to help its members during the current public health crisis, as well as for the coming mental health crisis looming on the horizon. The NCBH and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) have requested $38.5 billion in funding for community behavioral health organizations passed over in previous stimulus packages.