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Guidance on PPE for Behavioral Health Providers

Last updated: April 18, 2020

Behavioral Health Providers and Personal Protective Equipment

There is a need for health care personnel who are in close contact with ill patients to have adequate protection. Given the unprecedented demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), extraordinary measures to conserve PPE were issued on March 23, 2020 by the Maryland Secretary of Health Robert Neall. Directive and Order Regarding Various Healthcare Matters

Providers must conserve PPE to ensure that it is available for the acute care of sick patients. To this end, before utilizing PPE, the Anne Arundel County Department of Health is recommending facilities establish symptom screening for clients and staff, reconfigure how people interact with each other by placement of distance or barriers, practice good hand washing habits, conduct frequent cleaning of commonly used surfaces, and consider telehealth opportunities and other similar measures. All PPE is to be conserved for those who have no other option when dealing with ill patients.

As behavioral health agencies consider their need for PPE, here is additional information specific to N95 respirators:

  • N-95 masks are technically respirators and as such must be fit tested, and an employer must have a Respiratory Exposure Control Plan that includes fit testing.
  • Respirators are to be conserved by only using them for aerosol-generating procedures (which behavioral health providers are not likely doing). Even collecting a swab specimen through the nose to the back of the throat that makes people expel respiratory droplets in the process (i.e., conducting a test for COVID-19) does not require an N-95, only respiratory droplet and contact precautions.
  • Due to the limited availability of all levels of PPE, it is advised that environmental design and engineering controls be put in place.
  • Whatever level of PPE people/programs usually use during the peak of cold and flu season would be appropriate to continue (ie., food service workers wearing gloves).

Visit https://aahealth.org/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance/ for guidance regarding the prevention of transmission, as well as the CDC website for guidance regarding use of PPE Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of PPE.

The limited availability of PPE led the CDC to issue guidance on alternate strategies in a crisis for health care workers who would ordinarily wear a higher level of PPE or to re-use PPE that otherwise would be removed and discarded.

Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators: Crisis/Alternate Strategies – CDC

The current guidelines for testing for COVID-19 are limited to individuals with symptoms. Call the COVID-19 Health Line for more information or to access testing services at 410-222-7256, weekdays 7:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. and on weekends 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

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