Retired A+ President Caroline Novak and I are long-time professional and personal friends of Lynn Beshear, Alabama’s Commissioner of Mental Health. Our children, our educators and our schools continue to be challenged by the Covid-19 pandemic, and we’ve asked Lynn to write a guest blog informing all of us about the services and resources available from her Department. – Cathy Gassenheimer, Executive Vice President, Alabama Best Practices Center
I appreciate A+ and the Alabama Best Practices Center asking me to write a guest blog about what the Alabama Department of Mental Health is doing to continue providing its regular services as well as fostering targeted resources during this pandemic.
Our department’s mission is to serve, empower, and support individuals with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and substance use disorders. The individuals in our care are not only adults throughout Alabama but also children and students who attend schools in the state.
We offer statewide prevention education and support services through a network of providers supported by the Alabama Department of Mental Health. We strive to assist any child we can reach with preventive care and treatment that will help them to become healthy adults.
Our School-Based Mental Health Services (SBMH) represents a collaboration between Alabama Department of Mental Health and its providers and the Alabama State Department of Education and Alabama’s local education agencies. The goal is to ensure that all children and adolescents – in both general and special education – who are enrolled in local school systems have access to high quality mental health prevention, early intervention and treatment services.
We are proud that the Alabama Department of Mental Health and 16 community mental health authorities throughout the state now reach 61 school systems.
The Covid-19 Crisis
In our state, country and world, we are facing an unexpected mental health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 virus pandemic, and many people are struggling to find peace and calm during a significant shift in daily life.
With school ending abruptly after spring break, and digital learning quickly becoming the norm, many students found themselves feeling lost without friends, teachers and a school routine that offered a sense of normalcy. The isolating effects of the pandemic have changed so much of what we did every day that gave us comfort, consistency and control.
The Alabama Department of Mental Health has created a webpage where visitors can find many evidence-based sites and materials sharing tips and resources to support good mental health for all ages. This page can be found at https://mh.alabama.gov/covid-19/ and is updated regularly.
Resources such as the Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope With the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (download PDF) by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network provide helpful information by age group for families with children at home.
The SAMHSA document Talking With Children: Tips for Caregivers, Parents and Teachers During Infectious Disease Outbreaks (download PDF) also gives important information on physical and mental health and how to best communicate with children during this challenging time. There are also parent and caregiver-friendly videos such as Talking with Children about COVID-19 (below) available on the ADMH webpage and many other resources that may be more specific to your needs.
Help in a Challenging Time
For more information or if you have any questions about our services for children, adolescents, educators and schools, please email use at [email protected].
If more immediate mental health assistance is needed, do not wait – call a Crisis Line such as:
► The national Disaster Distress Helpline, available to anyone experiencing emotional distress related to COVID-19. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to speak to a caring counselor.
Working together, education and mental health professionals can provide invaluable support to our citizens of all ages during this very challenging time. Please let us know what we can do.
Lynn T. Beshear was appointed commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health by Governor Kay Ivey on July 10, 2017. A long-time activist for mental health services, Lynn began her career as a staff nurse at Duke University Medical Center, where she met her husband Bob Beshear, who was a pediatric intern. She became the head nurse in the Well-Baby Nursery the following year.
After moving to Montgomery in 1978, Commissioner Beshear’s focus turned to making a difference in the lives of the citizens of central Alabama through her commitment to public service. Mrs. Beshear and her husband, Dr. Robert Beshear, have three adult children and five grandchildren. (Read more about Commissioner Beshears’ life and work here.)