Tuesday, May 26, 2020

How one hard-hit state is rallying to support those with addiction amidst COVID-19


No area has been spared in the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of the most vulnerable populations is those with addiction. But if we’ve seen anything, it’s that states and addiction treatment providers have been incredibly resourceful in continuing to serve their communities while still taking appropriate measures to protect against the spread of the virus. One state that has been particularly hard-hit by the virus, Louisiana, rapidly jumped into problem-solving mode to ensure vital services continue to be provided to those with addiction.

Read more here.

Friday, April 24, 2020

COVID-19 brings with it an ocean of emotions

By the Office of Behavioral Health Prevention Team

During these uncertain times, heightened stress levels and increased anxiety are typical for some. COVID-19 has forced everyone to adjust to a “new normal,” making us change the way we interact with loved ones, friends and even co-workers, through physical distancing, staying at home and even self-isolation.

We’re all in this “new normal” boat together. When you feel like you’re adrift in self-isolation and physical distancing, the Louisiana Office of Behavioral Health is here to help you stay afloat. Here are a few things to pack away in your mental health toolkit.

I’m feeling overwhelmed with stress, uncertainty, fear or anxiety. Is there someone I can talk to?

These are all normal responses to an uncertain or threatening event. You can call the Keep Calm through COVID line at 1-866-310-7977. This phone line is available 24/7 and all calls are confidential. The Keep Calm through COVID line connects you to trained, compassionate counselors who can offer support and who can direct you to mental health and substance use counseling services.

Stress is inevitable, but I really need a way to let go of some steam. Will drinking alcohol help to ease some of this stress and anxiety? 

Alcohol is addictive and can be toxic. In higher amounts or when consumed with certain medications or by those with certain health conditions, relying on alcohol to relieve stress is not advised. Instead, use other stress reduction techniques and practices like exercise (as approved by your doctor), getting enough sleep (about eight hours a night for most adults), and relaxation techniques like meditation/mindfulness and structure-breathing exercises, listening to calming music, reading, etc.

I am in recovery, but this event is difficult to deal with. During this COVID-19 event, what are some ways I can stay above the influence? 

Especially during times such as these, experiencing high stress levels and increasing anxiety is common, and maintaining sobriety can be challenging. Here are some helpful tools you can use to help you cope and maintain your sobriety while practicing the recommended physical distancing: 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Public health workers deserve our thanks

By DR. ALEX BILLIOUX | Assistant Secretary, LDH Office of Public Health

Public health is at the forefront of global attention as the new coronavirus strains healthcare systems around the world. That makes it more appropriate than ever to think about — and thank — our public health workers during National Public Health Week, observed this year April 6-12. Held every April, National Public Health Week honors the countless public health workers who strive daily to help us live happier, healthier and longer lives.

From sanitarians ensuring our food is safe to eat, to the nurses and doctors on the front lines, and from volunteers staffing overflow makeshift hospitals to the highest rungs of government, a complex, interwoven health system is at work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week responding to the COVID-19 crisis here in Louisiana. Our healthcare system at times has been pushed to its limits, thereby asking our public health workers to also push themselves to their limits and then some. It’s not easy. It takes dedication, courage, compassion, adaptability, faith and nerves of steel.

The Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Public Health has 1,446 team members who work throughout the state to ensure the health and safety of all of our state’s residents and guests. Louisianans are lifting up our public health workers as heroes, but at the same time, we mustn’t lose sight of this one important thing: they’re people just like you and me.

They may be feeling anxious, or sad, or fearful, or angry, or other emotions that they may be locking away because they have work to do. For public health workers, it may feel like there’s no time for emotion when they’re racing the clock against a virus that has already claimed more than 755 lives in our state alone.

Our public health workers are stepping out there every day of this pandemic and putting themselves in harm’s way, potentially exposing themselves to the coronavirus. They have a part to play in tracking the spread of the virus, running samples at our state lab around the clock, and working with local emergency leaders to make sure communities across Louisiana are as prepared as possible to respond to this pandemic. It’s a time of high stress, high emotion and little rest.

Yes, public health workers are heroes, but they’re people too. Thank you to all of our public health workers for all that you do — not only during this pandemic, but every day. We see you and we appreciate you.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Seriously, y'all need to wash your hands

By MINDY FACIANE | Public Information Officer, Louisiana Department of Health

Life in Louisiana has changed dramatically over the past few weeks as COVID-19, more commonly called coronavirus, entered our state. Experts are continuing to learn more about this highly contagious virus — how it spreads, how it can be treated and, eventually how to create a vaccine to protect against it.

What we know right now is COVID-19 can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth when a person infected with the disease coughs or exhales. These droplets can land on objects or surfaces, like a cellphone, and can then be transmitted from a surface when a person touches it and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also become infected if they breathe in the droplets from a person who has COVID-19. This is why it’s important to stay at least 6 feet away from an infected person — an act of social distancing.

It’s also an enormously important reason for everyone to be washing their hands properly, thoroughly and frequently. You could be exposed to the virus without even knowing it — and, thereby, unknowingly spreading it as well.

Pandemic aside, good hand washing is something we should practice regularly:
  • Before, during and after preparing food,
  • Before eating food,
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick,
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound,
  • After using the toilet,
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet,
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing,
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste,
  • After handling pet food or pet treats, and
  • After touching garbage.

Washing your hands only takes 20 seconds and helps prevent the spread of germs like the coronavirus from person to person, our communities and our state. It just takes these five simple steps from the CDC:
  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Most of the time you should choose soap and water first when it comes to cleaning your hands, but if soap and water simply aren’t available then you can turn to hand sanitizers. These handy gels can cut down on germs significantly but they don’t get rid of all kinds of germs.

When choosing a hand sanitizer, check the label to make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol. (Keep it out of reach of children, because it may cause alcohol poisoning if too much is ingested.) To use, apply to the palm of one hand and rub the gel all over the surfaces of your fingers and hands until dry.

Whether it’s good old soap and water or the standby hand sanitizer, the power to help keep coronavirus at bay is literally in your hands.

Visit the COVID-19 webpages from the Louisiana Department of Health and the CDC for more coronavirus information.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Cell phones as a safety net lifeline: What we learned by delivering text messages to 27,000 Louisianans

By DUSTIN PALMER | Senior Program Manager, Code for America

Eligible people struggle to maintain their case status for critical safety net services, often due to administrative hurdles and poor communication. Code for America piloted text message reminders to support Louisianans, which helped clients avoid costly churn. Text messages are an underrated, efficient solution for human service agencies to meet client expectations and improve case outcomes.  

Read more here.