a monthly newsletter from Integral Care [printfriendly]

May: Surviving and Thriving During Uncertain Times


A Message From Our CEO

Are you surviving or thriving? COVID-19 has many of us in survival mode. Perhaps now more than ever we could use some practical tools to help us through this challenging time, which is likely impacting our mental health.


May is Mental Health Month, an opportunity to educate ourselves and others about the importance of good mental health. This year’s theme is Tools 2 Thrive. Some of those tools include creating healthy routines, finding the positive, owning our feelings and connecting with others (as best we can in the current situation). Throughout the month, we’ll share resources and tips in each of these areas on social media. We’ll feature easy cooking demos led by Integral Care nutritionists to support your healthy routines, a worksheet that guides you through reframing the negative in order to find the positive, plus much more. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for daily tips and tricks that support your mental health.


While May is a special month to focus on mental health, Integral Care is focused on the mental health of our community every day – in good times and bad. I would like to share some of the good work Integral Care is doing to support Austin-Travis County in these uncertain times.


We expanded our Helpline (512-472-HELP/4357) to give our community some extra emotional support. Our team is helping people manage stress and anxiety resulting from the coronavirus, providing crisis counseling, offering tools and coping strategies and making connections to other organizations who can help. We have a multidisciplinary team working with people quarantined in hotels. At each location, we are providing virtual and onsite access to an RN, Qualified Mental Health Professionals (one specializing in IDD and one in mental health) and a peer support specialist from 9am to 5pm daily.


We are also part of a team that is delivering healthy food to people experiencing homelessness. For many living on the streets, their usual food sources have dried up due to social distancing. Most food pantries have closed, people aren’t sharing food or money on street corners, and for those with money, stores have limited supplies. In mid-April, Austin City Council approved a six-week, $400,000 program to deliver a week’s worth of groceries at a time to our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Integral Care is working closely with The Other Ones Foundation (who spearheaded the project), Central Texas Food Bank, City of Austin and Travis County to pass out groceries daily at camps across the city. We are also providing essential items to clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation


Integral Care is finding new and creative ways to provide critical care and help meet the basic needs of our community. In the face of COVID-19, we continue to support health and well-being across Austin-Travis County. Together with our partners, we will work through this crisis and come out stronger.


David Evans
Chief Executive Officer


Annual Report Now Available


FY19 Annual Report (pdf)

Even though Integral Care is hyper-focused on responding to the needs of our community related to COVID-19, we would like to take a moment to celebrate how we positively impacted the health of Austin-Travis County in FY19 as the Local Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disability Authority. We invite you to learn more in our Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report, which highlights the new mobile medical and mental health team, our school-based crisis prevention and triage therapists, our substance use disorder services and more.


Austin Unites During COVID-19


Photo credit: Fox 7 Austin

Photo credit: Fox 7 Austin

We have witnessed incredible ingenuity and generosity across the community during this health crisis. We’d like to recognize some of the organizations and businesses stepping up in unique ways to help everyone stay healthy and safe through this unprecedented time.


The Community Connector – Dell Medical School: Their COVID-19 ATX Exchange is a creative solution to fulfill community needs. It’s like for unmet needs and those who can help. They are addressing everything from the shortage of personal protective equipment with 3D-printed face masks to the shortage of hygiene items for people experiencing homelessness.


The Food Finder – ATX Emergency Food Exchange: This City of Austin community forum is delivering free, healthy food to people who need it most – low-income seniors, immunocompromised and other food insecure individuals. A partnership between Capital Metro and food delivery service Good Apple, each delivery has enough food to last one person for one week and replaces a trip to the grocery store. No social distancing necessary.


The Transportation Angels – Capital Metro: Cap Metro provided free rides during the month of April. They are distributing face masks to customers who do not have access to their own. And, they are part of a variety of food delivery programs, including the one above, Help at Home Kits and Farmshare Austin Home Deliveries.


The Spirit Maker Turned Antiseptic Maker: Deep Eddy Vodka, Tito’s, Desert Door and other distilleries across central Texas have made the switch to producing ethanol-based hand sanitizer to address the demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Integral Care has received donations from several companies, helping us protect the health of our staff, clients and the community.


The Support System – Texas Health and Human Services Commission: HHSC launched a statewide mental health support line to help Texans experiencing stress and anxiety related to COVID-19. People can call 833-986-1919, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


For more inspiring examples of our community finding inventive ways to connect, keep one another safe and fight the spread of COVID-19, visit the City of Austin and Travis County’s ATX for ATX page. It’ll give you a lift and brighten your day.


Behavioral Health Access During COVID-19


As we are faced with the emotional and economic repercussions of COVID-19, behavioral health access is more important than ever for individuals struggling with mental illness. Social distancing measures and the scarcity of available providers have created barriers to accessing treatment.


There have been key actions to address these barriers since the onset of the pandemic through congressional and regulatory activity. For example, Congress has eased many restrictions on the use of telehealth, removing previous site and geographic restrictions so that individuals can now be seen in their homes.


Since March 6, 2020, four major pieces of legislation responding to the coronavirus have been signed into law, providing more than $2.7 trillion to combat COVID-19 and stimulate the economy. The third bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, approved on March 27, 2020, will help strengthen mental health care access with funding and provisions in the following areas:


  • $425 million for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) programs, including:
    • $250 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics
    • $50 million for suicide prevention programs
    • $100 million for mental health and substance use disorder emergency grants
  • $4 billion for community health centers, which is $1.32 billion over current fiscal year 2020 funding levels.
  • A repeal of the Medicare requirement that only allows a health care professional to see a patient via telemedicine if they have previously seen that patient within the past three years.
  • An alignment of 42 CFR Part II with HIPAA to allow sharing of substance use disorder records with health care professionals.

Statewide, various regulations have been eased by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission by expanding eligible food items for WIC, lifting certain regulatory measures for service providers of respite and waiving renewal requirements for Medicaid and SNAP. Texas was also approved for the 1135 Medicaid Waiver, which will offer new flexibilities to focus its resources on combatting the outbreak and providing the best possible care to Medicaid beneficiaries.


Locally, Austin City Council passed a resolution to allocate $15 million to provide immediate direct services and assistance to individuals suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19. Relief in a State of Emergency (RISE) funding will be distributed starting this month. Austin Public Health (APH) is partnering with social services agencies to ensure funds are distributed equitably and help our community impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Elected officials and agencies continue to work diligently to protect the health and safety of our communities through funding and regulatory changes. These changes will strengthen our ability to support individuals with existing mental illnesses or substance use disorders, as well as emerging issues as the pandemic unfolds.

What’s New at Integral Care

Help Integral Care Foundation support the front line efforts of Integral Care tomorrow on Giving Tuesday, May 5th. Your donation will provide critical resources such as medicine, groceries, rental/utility assistance and hygiene kits for Integral Care clients who are on shaky ground due to COVID-19.  Together, our community can weather this storm.


We are proud to be a recipient of the All Together ATX grant, created by United Way ATX and Austin Community Foundation. $20,000 will go towards Integral Care client prescription assistance and direct assistance, including help with rent and utilities.


KXAN spotlighted COVID-19’s impact on our mental health. The disruption each of us is experiencing may be traumatic. Laura Wilson-Slocum, our Practice Administrator for Crisis Services and Justice Initiatives was interviewed about signs of emotional distress and the fact that you don’t have to be in crisis to call our Helpline (512-472-HELP).


April 2020: Persevering During COVID-19

March 2020: Collaborations and Initiatives to Improve Health for the IDD Population

February 2020:Solutions to Health and Health Care Disparities

January 2020: Sucicide Prevention a Local Effort

December 2019: A Year of Thriving Care & Collaboration

November 2019: Teamwork and Collaboration Impact Homelessness in Travis County

October 2019:Making Strides for World Mental Health

September 2019: Taking Steps to Recovery Support

August 2019: Working Together for Child & Youth Mental Health

July 2019: Legislative Wrap-Up – Some Bipartisan Wins for Healthcare

June 2019: Strengthening Access for Veterans and the Entire Military Family

May 2019: Women and Mental Health

April 2019: Legislative Session Status Report

March 2019: Making Opportunities for Recovery More Accessible

February 2019: Recovery is Possible

January 2019: Stronger Outcomes Through Collaboration

December 2018: Looking ahead to the 86th Texas Legislature

November 2018: How Tech is Changing the Face of Mental Health

October 2018: A Few Questions Could Help Save a Life

September 2018: Anyone Can Save a Life

August 2018: A Milestone Moment

July 2018: Equity in Mental Health Care for All

June 2018: Expanding Services for Veterans

May 2018: Your Mental Health Toolkit

April 2018: Time of Terror Calls for Increased Emotional Support

March 2018: Stopping the cycle of incarceration for individuals with mental illness

February 2018: Equity in mental healthcare for everyone

January 2018 : Improving Mental Health Through Partnership & Collaboration

December 2017: Strength Through Community

November 2017 : Healthy Lifestyles Improve Well-Being

October 2017 : National Child Health Day

September 2017 : Strengthening Families and Communities