Tags Posts tagged with "Anxiety"


Project Echo at Penn State College of Medicine Presents:
Project Reassure: Fostering Resilience for Adult Neurodiverse Communities

Register for this no-cost training hour-eligible series for professionals serving adult neurodiverse individuals. The eight-session Project Reassure ECHO series will launch on January 12, 2024, from 7:45 am –9:00 am.

This series will provide participants with strategies in supporting adult neurodiverse individuals struggling with anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic and building resilience. The curriculum will cover the basics of recognizing trauma, stress, and anxiety; fostering resilience building skills; crisis prevention; dealing with uncertainty; and changes in the adult neurodiverse brain. Professionals serving adult neurodiverse individuals, including immediate direct clinical supervisors of direct support professionals, group home managers, behavior specialists, and program coordinators, are encouraged to register and actively participate.

Additional details and registration information can be found on the event flyer.

The Pennsylvania Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs (DDAP) is offering an online training module “Anxiety Disorders & Substance Use Disorder (SUD): Research-Based Strategies & Treatments.” The training covers effective treatments for individuals with co-occurring anxiety and substance use disorders, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and mindfulness meditation. It includes interactive elements and takes approximately 4 hours to complete. To access the training, create or log in to your account on the TrainPA website and search for “PA-DDAP: Anxiety Disorders & SUDs” under courses. You can email DDAP’s training inbox or call 717-736-7452 for inquiries.

The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) shared this report:

Direct Support Workforce and COVID-19 National Report: 12-Month Follow-up


While vaccination rates have improved among professionals supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, their mental and physical health have declined, a new survey shows.

The Institute on Community Integration, in partnership with the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP), surveyed 2,657 DSPs and frontline supervisors about their experiences supporting people with IDD during the pandemic. The newly released survey report is a 24-month follow-up to an initial report issued in April 2020. Additional surveys were conducted six and twelve months after the initial report. The survey series represents the largest-ever national study of the DSP workforce.

According to the report, 52% percent of DSPs reported being diagnosed with COVID-19, and 6% were not diagnosed but suspected they had it. Among employers, 65% did not require DSPs to be vaccinated.

Sixteen percent of DSPs remain unvaccinated. Of the 84% who are vaccinated, 67% reported having at least one booster shot.

While vaccination rates have improved from the 12-month survey in 2021 (from 72% to 86%), the mental wellbeing of DSPs has declined. Forty percent of DSPs reported experiencing depression, compared with 36% one year ago; 43% had difficulty sleeping, a 13% increase; and 56% reported increased anxiety, a 14% increase. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they felt pressure to work extra hours.

“Direct support professionals and frontline supervisors have worked as hard as they can,” said Amy Hewitt, ICI director and lead investigator of the study. “This survey shows that their mental health is worsening, and we don’t have the resources to address it. Working this much overtime is not sustainable.”

A national plan to increase the size of the direct support workforce would help to alleviate multiple troubling issues, Hewitt said.

“This workforce has been overlooked and in crisis for years, with high turnover and vacancy rates, low wages, and lack of access to affordable benefits,” she said.

More than half of DSPs receive government-funded assistance, such as housing, energy, food, and healthcare. The pandemic made staffing even more difficult, increasing stress, expectations, and risk on those who remain in their positions.

The 24-month follow-up survey also looked at changes in technology use during the pandemic. Fifty-nine percent of DSPs reported using technology more or a lot more than before the pandemic. Thirty-six percent of the respondents said the use of technology had a somewhat positive impact on their work, and 14% reported it had a very positive impact. Seventeen percent reported a somewhat negative impact and 3% a very negative impact.

Read the full report, a short version, and select state-specific versions here.

Please contact Jerry Smith with questions.

Young caregiver helping older lady to stand up

The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) is pleased to announce the issuance of Bulletin OMHSAS-22-06 titled “Revised Bulletin for Services to Older Adults.”

In 2019, Pennsylvania ranked 7th in the United States for the largest number of adults 65 and older. In the U.S., between 2020 and 2030, the number of older adults is projected to increase by almost 18 million, a 39% increase. The fastest growing segment of the population during the next two decades is expected to be in the age 85 and older group. Social isolation and limited access to supports negatively impact the well-being of older adults.

Depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental illnesses are not a normal part of aging and should not be considered as such. As individuals age, the support networks utilized to help manage symptoms of a mental illness may change, resulting in individuals seeking services for the first time in their lives.

The development of depressive disorders occurs frequently in older adults, making it critical that comprehensive mental health evaluations are conducted based on presenting symptoms regardless of age. It is important for providers to evaluate for suicidality given that older adult males have the highest suicide completion rate of any age group.

Older persons diagnosed with a neurocognitive disorder, including dementia, who are experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, including depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, post-traumatic stress syndromes, and behavioral agitation, are guaranteed access to mental health services under laws and regulations of the Commonwealth.

If you have questions or concerns related to this bulletin, please email OMHSAS or contact your RCPA Policy Director.

The Clinical Advisory Team at IntellectAbility has created a bulletin to help supporters recognize early signs of depression, anxiety, and loneliness in people. As we know, the incidence of these conditions is higher due to recent events, and they often present differently in people with disabilities. You can freely download and share this document with staff and families as well as use it for in-service training purposes. Here’s the download link: Depression, Anxiety and Loneliness in People with IDD – IntellectAbility.

With much appreciation for the work you do,
Craig Escude, MD
Craig Escude, MD, FAAFP, FAADM

white snoflake on wooden background

December 17, 2020

Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration issued recommendations to help individuals and families stay safe during the 2020 holiday season. Families are encouraged to hold virtual gatherings in order to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that small household gatherings are a large contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases, and exposure at these events can contribute to the spread once the holidays are over.

The Administration strongly recommends against participating in holiday gatherings with individuals or groups outside of your household. This advice is especially pertinent for individuals who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 infection such as older adults, individuals with certain medical conditions, and any resident of a long-term care facility.

“As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, and as we enter the flu season, it’s important that we continue to take this virus seriously. That means continuing to wear masks and forego social gatherings, even holiday gatherings, to protect those we love,” said Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller. “There are massive surges of positive COVID-19 cases in the majority of Pennsylvania counties, and protecting those most vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infection is critical. I urge everyone to remember the risks and do what they can to keep each other, their loved ones, and vulnerable people safe during this holiday season.”

The Departments of Health and Human Services have issued guidance to all long-term care facilities and nursing homes; they should review it with their residents to make sure that they are safe over the holidays. Those who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid in-person gatherings with people who do not live in the same household.

Addressing the Needs of Older Adults During the Holidays

Under normal circumstances, the holiday season can be a stressful time for many people, including older adults. However, this is a holiday season like no other because it is happening during what may be the most challenging year many have ever faced. This fact is particularly true for older adults who have been struggling throughout this year because of the lack of both family and personal connections.

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman continues to connect with long-term care residents through virtual meetings via Zoom, Facetime, or phone calls. The office has provided funds to local ombudsman programs through the CARES Act to use for technology and outdoor visitation, weather permitting.

The Ombudsman’s next Virtual Family Council meeting to support families of long-term care residents will be held on Tuesday, December 29, 2020 from 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm. PEERs (Pennsylvania Empowered Expert Residents) will join this meeting to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic from the long-term care resident’s perspective. PEERs are individuals living in long-term care settings who have been trained to advocate to improve the quality of life in their homes. To attend, email Jay Rotz and use “Virtual Family Council” in the subject line to receive a meeting link and instructions.

During December and January, the Pennsylvania Council on Aging’s (PCoA) Social Isolation Task Force is holding free virtual small-group interactive sessions that are designed to help older adults safeguard their mental, spiritual, and physical health. Now more than ever, these tips and reminders are critically important. These sessions will also give seniors the chance to maximize the positive impact of the council’s interactive “Strengthening Older Lives Online (SOLO)” guide. Sign up for a session here.

The Department of Aging and Pennsylvania Council on Aging have worked on solutions to help older adults meet the many challenges of this pandemic, including social isolation, throughout its duration. These efforts have resulted in the development of resources and partnerships to help older adults connect with loved ones and stay mentally and physically healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aging and its 52 Area Agencies on Aging, covering the commonwealth’s 67 counties, have continued to operate during the pandemic and offer virtual activities, including health and wellness programs. Find your local area Agency on Aging here.

These resources include an online COVID-19 resource guide for older adults, a new health and wellness guide titled “Strengthening Older Lives Online (SOLO)”, and a family support forum called the Virtual Family Council, which holds bi-weekly virtual support meetings for families with loved ones who are living in long-term care facilities. Information about all of these resources can be found on the Department of Aging’s website. More information on the Virtual Family Council can be found here. The SOLO guide can be found here.

“Since the start of this pandemic, we have worked diligently to address the needs of older Pennsylvanians, especially those who are at risk of being or who are actually socially isolated. The forced isolation of COVID-19 has intensified this problem. As a result, we have adapted our services to provide support and resources to help Pennsylvania seniors maintain good mental and physical health, and we want to ensure that they are aware of these services, especially during this holiday season,” said Secretary of Aging Robert Torres.     

Mental Health

People who experience feelings of anxiety or depression may experience more distress during the holiday season than during normal times. Given the challenges we are all currently facing, all Pennsylvanians should take extra care to be mindful of their mental health and tend to their overall health and wellness during this time. Check in with yourself, and be honest about how you are feeling with yourself and your support network. If you need someone to talk to or a little extra support, help is available.

DHS’s mental health support and referral helpline, Persevere PA, is available 24/7 and is a free resource that is staffed by skilled and compassionate caseworkers who are available to counsel Pennsylvanians who are struggling with anxiety and other challenging emotions. The helpline caseworkers can refer callers to community-based resources that can further help to meet individual needs. Pennsylvanians can contact Persevere PA at 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.

If you or someone you love is in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available by calling 1-800-273-8255. The hotline is staffed 24/7 by trained counselors who can offer free, confidential support. Spanish speakers who need immediate assistance can call 1-888-628-9454. Help can also be accessed through the Crisis Text Line by texting “PA” to 741-741.

A Plain Communities Helpline is also available through WellSpan at Philhaven at 717-989-8661. The Plain Communities Outpatient Clinic provides high quality mental health care that is sensitive to the values of the plain sect community.

The stress and loneliness of this time may also make things harder for those who are currently battling a substance use disorder, but treatment and resources are available to help. The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs’s Get Help Now helpline can be reached at 1-800-662-HELP.

For more information on the latest guidance on COVID-19, visit this webpage.