First Person Perspective

How We Adapted to the COVID-19 Crisis


For years, our nation has been facing a rapidly worsening mental health crisis. Suicide rates are at a 30-year high with approximately 123 Americans dying by suicide daily. The opioid epidemic has also continued to spiral out of control, and about 130 Americans on average die every day. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problems that we have been facing as a society, including issues with timely access to quality health care. Compounding this are the mental health and societal impacts of COVID-19 that will be much longer lasting than any of us can anticipate.

While we are on the downward slope of the first wave of the virus and its direct physical impact on the health of people in society, we know that the third and fourth waves are only beginning. These waves have far broader and longer-term impacts on the mental health and well-being of people.

To best meet the wide-ranging and increasing needs for compassionate, quality mental health care, Sheppard Pratt has rapidly adapted its care and services over the last several months. COVID-19 necessitated that we change our programs and processes. We focused on how we could continue to serve those in need and meet them where they are through low-contact and virtual options—all while caring for more people than ever before.

Since the beginning of March, we have:

Increased access to quality mental health care:
  • Launched a Virtual Crisis Walk-In Clinic to provide those in crisis with an online mental health assessment, which decreases the number of patients in hospital emergency departments
  • Transitioned almost all services at our dozen outpatient mental health clinics to telehealth, ensuring that clients can stay home while receiving life-changing care—and can access care faster than ever before
Provided resources to our most vulnerable populations:
  • Delivered more than 13,000 meals each week to our day program clients in our communities
  • Provided basic resources—hygiene and cleaning products, diapers, formula, food, and more—to the thousands of clients and families in our care throughout the state
Developed creative solutions:
  • Created individualized distance learning plans for the hundreds of students in our 14 special education schools—while simultaneously supporting them through teletherapy
  • In May, we offered free virtual Lunch & Learns on social media to provide expert resources on a variety of mental health topics to address the growing interest in mental health topics due to COVID-19

Although it remains unclear how long the pandemic and its effects will last, Sheppard Pratt is here to support our community in its most difficult days and to ensure the needs of those we serve are met at every step. We will move forward together and continue to be the place that people turn to for transformative, compassionate, life-saving care.