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Novel Coronavirus - COVID-19: Information for Community Behavioral Health Providers, Consumers, and Families

Novel Coronavirus - Information for Providers, Consumers, and Families

Last updated: 9/29/20 10:00 a.m. (CDT)

A note from Commissioner Williams:

Dear Community Behavioral Health Provider, Consumer, Family and Friends,

We know that this is a very trying time and that you are doing the best you can with the information you have.  We’re with you, and we’re going to get through this together.  This situation continues to evolve quickly, and we continue to monitor it closely.  Our leadership team is conducting daily calls with RMHI CEOs and community behavioral health providers to respond to concerns as quickly as possible.  We are constantly examining and revising our operations to maintain safety for all of us while continuing to provide exceptional services.

In an effort to provide up-to-date information and to spread a shared sense of awareness, we are going to be posting regular updates on the COVID-19 situation both inside TDMHSAS and also more broadly in state government on this webpage.  I want to encourage all of our consumers, families, and providers to stay up to date with the latest guidance from Governor Bill Lee’s Office, the Tennessee Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other trusted sources.  Please, follow the best practices that have been issued including avoiding gatherings, practicing social distancing, and protecting individuals in the vulnerable population.

Everything we do is with a heartfelt commitment to bring the reality of resiliency and recovery to Tennesseans with behavioral health issues.  It is an honor and privilege to serve in partnership with you, particularly during challenging times such as these.  I thank you for being at the HEART of what we do. 

My best,


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Update

As the Department continues to assess for and procure additional COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) for community-based behavioral health contractors, particularly N-95 masks and surgical masks, the Department would encourage each agency’s leadership team to consider recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although recommended only as a “last resort” and under “crisis capacity” environments, the CDC announced that nurses and other healthcare staff can use bandanas and scarves as makeshift masks when caring for COVID-19 patients. While not considered PPE, homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face. More information can be found here:

General Information

If you are experiencing a mental health or psychiatric emergency, please call our Statewide Crisis Line: 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471)

If you need a referral to substance use disorder treatment or other resources, call or text the TN REDLINE: 800-889-9789

If you have issues accessing mental health or substance abuse services and it is not an emergency need, contact the TDMHSAS Office of Consumer Affairs Helpline during normal business hours: (800) 560-5767

The Disaster Distress Helpline1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7/365 national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Are Community Behavioral Health Providers still seeing current patients/taking new patients?

Yes.  In accordance with CDC guidelines, Tennessee’s community behavioral health providers are still taking new patients and seeing current patients.  With increased flexibility from the federal government and Governor Lee, providers are increasing their resources and ability to provide treatment via telehealth to reduce risk of disease spread.  The department is holding frequent calls with community behavioral health providers to communicate the latest guidance and answer questions as they arise.  The questions and answers from those calls are posted publicly on the department’s website at this link.  For persons who are 138 of Federal Poverty Level or below, Tennessee’s Behavioral Health Safety Net provides a range of essential mental health services.  Additionally, our substance abuse continuum of care provides addiction treatment services to Tennesseans with no means to pay.

I’m feeling increased stress/anxiety because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Your reaction is understandable, and it’s typical for a stressful situation like this.  Other common reactions include fear, worry, anger, loneliness, increased substance use, and depression.  Helpful strategies for coping include understanding the risk, staying informed, connecting with others, and finding ways to address financial stress. (See SAMHSA Tip Sheet:

My mental health needs require professional help/I’m thinking of hurting myself or taking my life.

Please know that there is hope and there is help available for you.  Please call Tennessee’s 24/7/365 Statewide Crisis Line: 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471) or text TN to 741-741 to connect to a trained counselor.

I need a referral to addiction treatment.

For Tennesseans who are uninsured, please call or text the Tennessee REDLINE 24/7 for a free, confidential referral to addiction treatment resources: 800-889-9789.  If you have TennCare, please reach out to your Managed Care Organization.  If you have private insurance, you can call the number on the back of your insurance card for more information.

What is being done to protect patients and staff at the state’s four Regional Mental Health Institutes?

Before the COVID-19 outbreak reached pandemic status, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services instituted new protocols for screening patients, staff, and visitors for symptoms of the disease.  Additionally, on March 13, 2020, the department suspended all visitation at the RMHIs.  The department has been holding daily conference calls with RMHI CEOs to communicate the latest developments and respond to issues as they arise.  We have been working with TEMA to ensure continued supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and items are being used in accordance with best practices from CDC.

I want more information about mental health and substance abuse services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please visit the TDMHSAS COVID-19 page at this link:  The page is frequently updated with the latest guidance and information.

Public Health Resources

TN Department of Health Resource Page
Governor's Office Resource Page
Tennessee COVID-19 Unified Command
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Resource and Information Page
CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again
CDC Information for Healthcare Facilities
FEMA Rumor Control Page
COVID Mental Health Support - Pandemic Crisis Services Response Coalition

Information for Community Behavioral Health Providers

Provider Calls with TDMHSAS
Complete Q&A Log from Provider Calls (updated 5-4-20)
We have compiled all of the questions and answers from the previous provider calls into one document for ease of navigation.  You can view the above linked PDF document and CTRL+F search specific topics if needed.

Resources from TDMHSAS and Other State Agencies
COVID-19 Counseling Resources
Telehealth FAQ
Memo to Providers re: Telehealth Eligibility
TennCare Memo: HHS Extends Deadline for Medicaid, CHIP and Dental Provider Relief Funds
Tennessee Community CARES Program - COVID-19 Relief for Non-Profits
Tennessee Community CARES Program - Frequently Asked Questions
TennCare Memo: Federal support for TennCare and CoverKids providers
TDMHSAS Office of Licensure Virtual Inspections Information
Tennessee Poll Findings on Mental Health and COVID-19
TennCare Memo HHS Provider Relief Fund
TN Dept. of Human Services P-EBT
TN Dept. of Education School Reopening Toolkit: Wellbeing and Mental Health
Update on TennCare MCO Telehealth Coverage Policies
Connect with a Community Anti-Drug Coalition in Your Area
TN Dept. of Correction COVID-19 Testing Numbers
Child Care Services - Department of Human Services
Use of PPE by non-medical personnel
Grants Finder Resource
Editable Fabric Mask Handout for Providers
BHSN Temporary Program Changes (April 6, 2020)
Letter of Access for Essential Personnel
TDMHSAS Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Employee Paid Leave Exemptions FAQ 
TDMHSAS Community Based Resources: TN Recovery Navigators, Project Lifeline Coordinators, and Faith-Based Community Coordinators
Guidance Document for Congregate Care Providers (i.e. MH and SA residential treatment, supportive living, supportive residential, etc.)
Behavioral Health Group Therapy Telehealth Services for TennCare Enrollees - COVID-19
Behavioral Health Psychosocial Rehabilitation Telehealth Services for TennCare Enrollees - COVID-19
TennCare Behavioral Health COVID-19 Telehealth Update (3.25.2020)
TN Dept. of Health Webinar for Healthcare Providers (PDF Slides), March 13, 2020

General Resources

ARC Accepting Applications for New Initiative to Address Region’s Substance Abuse Crisis
HRSA Provider Relief Fund: Medicaid and CHIP Provider Distribution
Emory University Health Equity Dashboard
The Joint Commission: COVID-19 Resources
U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance
CARES Act Provider Relief Fund (HHS)
The Department has partnered with YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tennessee to establish free child care for the school aged children of essential workers. Full listing of YMCA and Boys & Girls Club temporary/emergency care locations is available for the YMCA at this link and the Boys & Girls Clubs at this link.
NAMI-TN Facebook Page: Live Video Chats and Other Resources
SAMHSA Training and Technical Assistance
Health Resources and Services Administration: COVID-19 Uninsured Claim Portal
Grant Opportunity: FCC COVID-19 Telehealth Program
TRACIE Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Information Gateway
Department of Veterans Affairs COVID Coach App
TAADAS Clearinghouse for COVID-19 Resources
SAMHSA Training and Technical Assistance Related to COVID-19 (Includes link to several upcoming and recorded webinars among other resources)
Lifeline Phone Service 
COVID-19 FAQs for SAMHSA Grant Recipients
Online Recovery Support Groups
Recommendations for Providers that employ Tennessee Recovery Navigators
AA Online Recovery Groups
NA Online Recovery Groups
SAMHSA COVID-19 Resources and Information
SAMHSA Guidance: 42 CFR Part 2, 3-19-20
HHS HIPAA Guidance, March 17, 2020: Notification of Enforcement Discretion for telehealth remote communications during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency
HHS HIPAA Guidance for Covered Hospitals, March 15, 2020
National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers
CDC Civilian Outreach and Community Activity (COCA) Webinar 3-17-20
SAMHSA Virtual Recovery Resources

Fiscal Resources Slides - relaxed requirements for SAM registration and validation for all applicants
Association of Government Accountants - COVID-19 Resources

Resources for Crisis Providers
(UPDATED 8-6-20) TDMHSAS Communication to Crisis Services Providers  Document contains recommendations for call triaging, mobile response, Walk-In Center, Crisis Stabilization Units, RMHI referrals, and staff and visitors.
Supporting Crisis Center Staff Tip Sheet  (From National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)
Supporting Callers/Chat Visitors Tip Sheet (From National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)

Resources for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Providers
SAMHSA FAQ for OUD Prescribing and Dispensing (UPDATED 4-21-20)
DEA COVID-19 Resources
DEA Infographic: Prescribing Controlled Substances During COVID-19 Emergency
Information for OBOT Providers
Modifications to Minimum Program Requirements for Licensed OBOT Facilities
Information for OTP Providers
Modifications to Minimum Program Requirements for Licensed OTP Facilities

Self-Care Resources for Behavioral Health Workers
American Psyciatric Association: Coronavirus and Mental Health: Taking Care of Ourselves During Infectious Disease Outbreaks
American Psychiatric Foundation: Working Remotely During COVID-19Your Mental Health and Well-being
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Helping People Manage Stress Associated with the COVID-19 Virus Outbreak
Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress: Sustaining the Well-Being of Healthcare Personnel during Coronavirus and other Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Governor's Office
Governor Lee Executive Order 61
Governor Lee Executive Order 60
Governor Lee Executive Order 59
Governor Lee Executive Order 55
Governor Lee Executive Order 54
Governor Lee Executive Order 53
Governor Lee Executive Order 52
Governor Lee Executive Order 51
Governor Lee Executive Order 50
Governor Lee Executive Order 49
Governor Lee Executive Order 38
Governor Lee Executive Order 37
Governor Lee Executive Order 36
Governor Lee Executive Order 34
Governor Lee Executive Order 31
Governor Lee Executive Order 25
Governor Lee Executive Order 22
Governor Lee Executive Order 18
Governor Lee Executive Order 16

Department Contact Information

Full Department Contact List at this link

For Licensure Questions, please contact