7 Immediate Steps New York State Should Take to Help Insure Access to the Vaccine to the Mental Health Workforce and those with Mental Health Needs.
1) Residential Programs Staff and Residents Should Be Priority
Residential program staff and residents must be part of Phase I of implementation. They are at greatest risk of contracting COVID and should be among the first receiving the vaccine, no differently than any populations in congregate settings.
2) New York’s 24 Psychiatric Hospitals Should Be Given Same Priority as any other Hospital
The State’s twenty-four psychiatric hospitals including the forensics units at Kirby and Central New York should be included as part of all the statewide hospitals in Phase 1 of vaccine implementation. A psychiatric hospital should not be treated any differently than any public hospital
3) Adults Homes Should Be Treated the same as Skilled Nursing Homes as Part of Phase I
Over 12,000 New Yorkers with mental health needs are residing in Adults Homes. The Adult Home Workforce and residents should be regarded as part of Phase 1 for the vaccine, no different from those in designated skilled nursing homes
4) Community Mental Health Workforce Should Be Priority
Separate from those living in residential programs, there are still over 700,000 people in the State’s public mental health system. Though tele-health has played a major role in providing support for individual, there are still many in the workforce who are engaged publically everyday with individuals with mental health needs including peers, outreach workers, mobile crisis team, clinical staff and care managers. They and the individuals they serve should be included in Phase 1 of the vaccine as well.
5) Homeless Outreach
Homeless Outreach to provide resources to those with mental health related issues should be Part of Phase 1. The State must dedicate resources to provide outreach to those individuals with mental health issues that are homeless.
6) Prison Workforce and Population should be in Phase 1 of implementation
New York’s prison system is populated with a large percentage of individuals with mental health issues. The prisons serve as congregate settings and are likely part of super spreaders for COVID. Priority must be given to this population.
7) Support Vaccines for Aging Family Members living with loved ones with serious mental health issues
Many people with mental health issues are still living with aging parents. They often serve as their loved one’s care manager. The needs of these individuals often engage working with service providers, hospitals and mobile crisis teams leaving them at great risk. These family members and their loved ones should be part of Phase 1 of the vaccine