How the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacts Mental Health Law and Practice: Some Resources to Address These Concerns
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected mental health law and practice in unique ways. On Friday, June 4, 2021, from 1-4 pm, a CLE live webcast sponsored by ISBA’s Mental Health Law Section and the Standing Committee on Disability Law will focus on some of the pandemic’s effects, specifically in the areas of special education, HIPAA changes, remote court proceedings, and recent changes in mental health law.
In conjunction with this upcoming CLE, the following are some interesting resources in related to mental health law and the pandemic.
National Institute of Mental Health
Joshua Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in his April 9, 2021, article marking the anniversary of COVID-19 noted that “[t]he mental health impacts of COVID-19 continue. From all that we know, it is clear these impacts will outlive the pandemic itself. Therefore, it is crucial that we work together to apply evidence-based strategies to support the mental health needs of all Americans and to make these strategies broadly available, especially in vulnerable communities.” (NIMH » One Year In: COVID-19 and Mental Health (nih.gov)). Interestingly, Dr. Gordon cites to a study focusing on how COVID-19 has affected substance abuse recovery efforts in Cook County. (Notes from the Field: Opioid Overdose Deaths Before, During, and After an 11-Week COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Order — Cook County, Illinois, January 1, 2018–October 6, 2020 | MMWR (cdc.gov))
Besides conducting mental health research, the NIMH has also produced shareable resources for coping with the mental health stress arising from COVID-19: “The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is stressful for many people. People respond to stress in different ways and it is normal to experience a range of emotions, including fear, anxiety, and grief. Sharing accurate information about COVID-19 and strategies for coping can be an effective way to manage stress and connect with others.” (NIMH » Shareable Resources on Coping with COVID-19 (nih.gov))
HIPPA and COVID-19
The Health and Human Service’s Office of Civil Rights has an excellent webpage linking the bulletins, notifications of enforcement discretion, guidance, and resources in explaining how patient information is used and disclosed during the pandemic. (HIPAA and COVID-19 | HHS.gov)
The U.S. Department of Education, specifically the Office for Civil Rights, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, offers guidance and resources regarding special education and COVID-19. (Supplemental Fact Sheet: Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Schools (PDF) (ed.gov) ) (Program Information: FAQs and Responses | U.S. Department of Education)
Remote Court Proceedings in Illinois Due to the Pandemic
Because many behavioral health units still limit in person visitation, a majority of civil mental health proceedings are still conducted remotely in Illinois. The Illinois Supreme Court has a dedicated webpage about COVID-19, including a listing of virtual courtroom guides by jurisdiction. (Illinois Courts - COVID-19 Information and Updates) The Illinois Supreme Court has also drafted a guidance document about remote court proceedings. (illinois Supreme Court Remote Court Proceedings – Guidance Document)
Besides these useful resources, the June 4, 2021 ISBA webinar will provide further information on COVID-19 and mental health law and practice. We look forward to your participation with this CLE.
Barbara Goeben is a staff attorney with the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission, Legal Advocacy Service, Metro East Regional Office in Alton.