The following list was sent from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services to be used as guidelines for providers of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services following the issuance of Executive Order 53 on March 23, 2020.

DBHDS would also like to say “thank you for your commitment to providing services to Virginians with mental health, substance use disorders, and developmental disabilities during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your efforts are a critical aspect of the statewide response to keep Virginians safe and healthy in their communities.”

1.) Behavioral health and developmental services and facilities are essential health services.

Providers of behavioral health and developmental services and their workforce are essential infrastructure that should remain operational during this emergency period to the extent possible. Public and private providers in Virginia’s behavioral health and developmental services system ensure the health and safety of some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable people. The state medical system would be quickly overwhelmed in this pandemic without efforts from public and private providers in our system to prevent crises and skillfully handle emergencies when they arise.

2.) Essential services include providing services to individuals already receiving services and individuals newly in need of services.

As providers of essential services, behavioral health and developmental service providers are expected to provide continuity of care for individuals already receiving services as well as maintain a point of entry to services for individuals who may need to begin or resume services.

3.) Services should be provided using alternate means such as telehealth,when possible.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and Virginia Department of Health (“VDH”), as well as local health departments have issued guidance to limit the spread of COVID-19. Guidance most notable for behavioral health and developmental services providers include utilizing telehealth and telephonic intervention when possible.If in person contact is required, maintain a 6 feet distance between people, avoid group gatherings unless absolutely necessary and if absolutely necessary adhere to group limit guidelines, use personal protective equipment (PPE) if available when face-to-face contact is required to complete essential job duties, and screen for COVID-19 symptoms prior to face-to-face contact.

4.) Vulnerable individuals and critical needs should be prioritized, and routine visits should be limited.

Continuity of care for individuals with serious mental illness,developmental disabilities,substance use disorder, serious emotional disturbance,and individuals who are being discharged or have recently been discharged from an inpatient or residential level of care is a priority. Ensuring that individuals have access to their necessary medications, including Medication Assisted Treatment (“MAT”) and behavioral supports as needed is a priority. It is also a priority that individuals receive communication about their services and changes to their services and know what to do if a behavioral health crisis occurs. Routine appointments (e.g., weekly scheduled appointments, routine group based supports) and supports for stable individuals can be rescheduled or replaced with brief “check-ins” based on the preference of the individual and availability of providers or use of telehealth, phone check ins, etc.

5.) Local emergency services(pre-screening function) and REACH services provided through Community Services Boards (CSBs) will remain the point of contact for emergent needs/pre-screens.

Service disruptions and changes (e.g., services provided via telehealth, appointments rescheduled, locations changed due to quarantine) are to be expected during the course of the pandemic. The local emergency services phone number remains the point of contact for emergent needs and pre-screens. Individuals can also be directed to call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room in a crisis situation.