American Mental Healthcare Facilities are Woefully Unprepared for Coronavirus

Protecting Against Coronavirus 3-30-20

My Coronavirus Gear

I work as a counselor at an acute mental healthcare facility in the Southeastern United States. I love what I do, but what I’ve observed during the past one month is that acute mental healthcare in the United States is woefully unprepared to tackle the coronavirus. Mental healthcare is something that we’re not hearing much of anything about during this crisis because of the focus on medical care, though protective precautions for patients and employees in the mental healthcare industry – particularly acute, long-term, and residential facilities – must be addressed and improved.

On Friday, March 6, 2020, I began wearing my own N95 masks – that I bought from eBay sellers – to work. I paid a high price for the masks, but it was worth it. I was the first employee (to my knowledge) to wear any type of mask at my place of employment, due to my own coronavirus precautions. Beginning on Friday, March 20, 2020, I also added cotton gloves to my arsenal of gear, also purchased from a vendor on eBay. Keep in mind that I’m not sick, and I’m doing whatever possible to stay that way with having to go to work.

Medical and healthcare policies toward protecting patients and staff from potential coronavirus exposure and infection need improvement in American mental health facilities. Only last week did my facility begin requiring employees to get temperature checks before entering any units. Each person is on their honor to now do their own temperature check and log the correct temperature. No medically-qualified staff are present when this occurs, nor to confirm the results. It may also be a good idea to have staff check their temperatures prior to leaving work, as well, though that has not yet been required.

Patients coming into my facility from other hospitals are generally already wearing masks that they’ve gotten from the previous facility. Only last week did my hospital begin supplying surgical masks to those patients and staff who ask for them. My understanding is that there is a low supply. More and more staff during the course of the past one month are wearing masks, including a few wearing N95 masks, and the majority wearing surgical masks. I would estimate, however, that not even one-quarter of the staff who work at my hospital during the day are wearing masks.

Yesterday, I wore an N95 mask for 14 hours. I wore it for 8.5 hours at work, and also for the rest of the day, including at home. I would ordinarily only wear the mask while at work, but yesterday, I was exposed to a staff member who was exposed to a patient at his other hospital who is in serious, if not critical, condition due to the coronavirus. I did inform two supervisors about it, and I wiped my department office down with Lysol since this colleague was also using my desk. Today, my work colleague got tested. When I checked-in with him, he stated to me that he has to wait 5-7 days for results and stay quarantined for 14 days. There was also a patient on the unit I was assigned to who was sent out to a medical hospital, yesterday, due to potential coronavirus symptoms. So, while I wasn’t exposed to that patient, I was exposed to staff who were exposed to that patient. Thankfully, I wear my mask and gloves at work for everything except eating and drinking, so I hope I’m safe from being infected.

Today, I’ve already worn the same N95 mask for 12 hours that I wore yesterday. I’m taking precautions to protect my family in case I have the coronavirus. I also washed in the laundry today three pairs of cotton gloves that I’ve been wearing – while also continuing to wear another pair. I figure that if I have coronavirus symptoms, they’ll start to appear within about three days, from what I’ve read. By Wednesday evening, I should know one way or the other.

Of course, I’m also doing social distancing, both at work and at home, while also wearing my mask and gloves. I’m also doing my laundry after work, as well as running the dishwasher to keep dishes clean. In the shower, I’m using latex gloves and I’m not keeping my soap in the soap dish, so no one else uses it. I’m also wearing latex gloves while cooking for my family. Hopefully, all of this will help prevent this ravaging virus from infecting me and my family!

I’ve been saying for weeks at work that everyone – including patients and staff – needs to wear masks. At my facility, that has not been encouraged to say the least, though I hope it will be in the near future for everyone’s protection. Everyone in facilities throughout the United States needs to wear masks, and if they’re not already wearing gloves, to wash their hands often and sanitize their areas as much as possible. We don’t know everything there is to know about this virus, though what we do know is scary and tragic. Too many people have already been lost to this horrible pandemic. People in the United States – and around the world – need to take coronavirus much more seriously, including mental healthcare professionals – for our own welfare as well as that of everyone we treat!

 

“My Change.org Petitions for Children and School Safety” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Increased Building Security and Protections are Needed in American Public and Private Schools

Increased Building Security and Protections are Needed in American Public and Private Schools

The Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut was horrific and devastating.  As a mother, a parent, an educator, a Christian, and an American, I was in shock about the incredible terror that was unleashed upon young, innocent, vulnerable children and their school teachers and administrators when I heard of and read about it last Friday, December 14, 2012.  My heart goes out to all of the victims, survivors, families, first responders, and religious who have had any involvement in this devastating tragedy; and that healing and hope will come to all of those who lost loved ones or were traumatized because of it.

I heard about the crisis while volunteering at a local Catholic store that aims to provide support and assistance to those who are in need.  Then, reading an Internet article about the tragedy, I was in shock and disbelief.  My own 9-year-old son became informed of the crisis while still at school by reading the headlines of an Internet article about the tragedy on a teacher’s computer screen.  He coped with his sadness and fears independently without any adult guidance until receiving it from me at school dismissal.

It is bad enough that so many children died.  To add to that, also imagine children throughout our country who have been required to mentally cope with this knowledge and information on their own, without any effective guidance or discussion.  Just yesterday, it was reported that an 11-year-old in Utah brought an unloaded gun and ammunition with him to school for protection.  Safety, protection, and guidance is needed for children, including appropriate shielding from sensitive information about such tragedies.

So many lives have been lost, so much innocence has not been spared.  How can we assure our children, educators, school personnel, and parents throughout our country that students will be safe in our schools in the wake of this tragedy? 

More action is needed to protect children, educators, and school personnel in our schools from violence.  An increased amount of legally-required building securities and protections are needed within our public and private schools throughout America.  More effective assistance and support is also needed for all those who are struggling with mental health issues.

Yesterday, I read about and cried over so many of the funerals that were being held for the victims in the Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The lives of all those who died are valuable and important, each in their own ways.  They are the lives of children and adults who will live on in our memories forever.  It is for them that we must act positively to make positive change in the wake of this tragedy.

Today, I signed 35 Change.org petitions related to honoring the victims of Sandy Hook, ending gun violence, curbing the sales of guns and ammunition, and increasing the availability of mental health care.  I also created two of my own Change.org petitions.  Please read, review, and sign my petitions that I posted on Change.org today in support of children.  The petitions include one calling for a National Children’s Day, and another seeking an increase in legally-required building security in public and private schools.  My petitions can be found at the following links:

http://www.change.org/petitions/president-barack-obama-united-states-congress-united-states-senate-create-a-national-children-s-day ; and

http://www.change.org/petitions/president-barack-obama-governors-governors-elect-washington-dc-mayor-increase-legally-required-building-security-at-public-and-private-schools .

The text of my first petition is as follows:

“In the United States, we celebrate so many special days, including Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, Sweetest Day, Valentine’s Day, and so many other days to mark special events, occasions, and holidays. The creation and enactment of a National Children’s Day is necessary in the United States. In remembrance of the memories of the 20 children who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, an annual day to celebrate children in our nation is desperately needed. The day need not be on December 14, but can be on another day at some point throughout the year.

Countries such as Mexico honor children and have a national children’s day. Americans must also value, honor, appreciate, love, and respect children enough to create and enact a National Children’s Day, correct? It is long past time in the United States for the creation and enactment of a National Children’s Day to celebrate children and their innocence, vulnerability, joy, love, blessings, energy, and so much more that they bring into our lives.

Children are our future. We, as Americans, must value our children enough to create and enact a special day just for the children! 

Please sign this petition to President Barack Obama, and the members of the United States Congress and Senate, to create and enact a National Children’s Day in the United States.

Thank you.”

My second petition reads:

“In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, an increase in legally-required building security and protections are desperately needed in our public and private schools throughout the country.  Public and private schools should be legally-required to have working locked entry/access; working and monitored videocameras throughout the schools; communications devices such as telephones, public address systems, and panic/call buttons in each classroom; trained, competent personnel such as police and/or security officers to react effectively to crises; and practice and participate in regular monthly or quarterly lock-down drills and intruder alert drills. 

Our most precious, loved, and cherished young offspring are placed in the care and responsibility of educators and school staff each day.  They must be more and better-equipped and practiced in reacting to emergency or crisis situations.  Schools throughout the country require regular practice and participation of students and school personnel in fire drills, but there is no regular practice of intruder alert drills or lock-down drills in many schools, especially private and/or parochial schools.  Increased awareness and practice is needed so that everyone can react more quickly, efficiently, and effectively to protect and/or save lives in an emergency or crisis situation.

No matter how safe we would like to think or believe that our schools are, there are always unsafe situations that are unpublicized and unheard.  Just because one has not heard of a dangerous situation occurring in a school, does not mean that it has not occurred. 

We, citizens, educators, parents, and leaders must do more and demand more for the protection, safety, and security of our children in all schools throughout the country.  We must be willing to make positive changes and sacrifices for the protection, safety, and benefit of our children.  Children must be and feel safe in attending school, the place where so many of our children spend a great portion of their lives. 

We must take a stand against the increasing culture of violence in America, and work to improve and enhance the safety, security, and protections within our schools.  Please sign this petition to let our elected leaders know that positive change in these areas is desperately needed. 

Thank you.”

Let us stand together in this tragedy to help make the future better for ourselves, our children, and all Americans.  More must be done.  We must do it today!