As our nation once again grapples with the historic inequities in our criminal justice system, policy makers also continue to be confronted with the disparities in our health care system. The COVID pandemic is disproportionately impacting people of color and other vulnerable populations. Policy makers continue to take action to respond to the public health crisis and resulting economic impacts. Below is a snapshot of the most innovative action we saw in states over the last week from the public and private sectors. These policies are focused in four priority areas:
- Provide accurate information and clear recommendations on the virus and how to stay healthy and safe
- Ensure a reliable health care system that is fully resourced to support essential workers and available when it is needed, both now and after the pandemic.
- Provide people with the financial and health care security they need to weather COVID-19 and other health care needs they face.
- Ensure a health care system that cares for everyone, including people who are vulnerable and those who were already struggling before the pandemic hit.
Provide accurate information and clear recommendations on the virus and how to stay healthy and safe.
- Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group announced a partnership with the University of Tennessee to assist in the collection and analysis of survey data, tracking citizens’ sense of safety and economic well-being as the state reopens.
- Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker recently signed into law “An Act Addressing COVID-19 Data Collection and Disparities in Treatment,” which will allow for the collection and publication of additional data to understand the impact of COVID-19 on underserved and underrepresented populations. He has proposed a second bill to update this law to ensure the timely reporting of information to the Department of Public Health.
- Maine Governor Janet Mills has modified the state’s 14-day quarantine requirement for people entering Maine. The plan, called Keep Maine Healthy, aims to protect the health of Maine people and visitors while allowing people to visit Maine and support Maine small businesses during the summer months. The plan rests on three cornerstones: 1) Visitors must certify that they have received a recent negative COVID-19 test to stay in lodging establishments as an alternative to quarantine; 2) Maine will increase symptom checks at places where visitors tend to go; and 3) Maine will support community promotion of COVID-19 prevention best practices and public health education.
- Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that the Texas Division of Emergency Management, in coordination with local officials, public health officials, and emergency management offices, is working to identify and rapidly expand COVID-19 testing in underserved and minority communities disproportionately impacted.
Ensure a reliable health care system that is fully resourced to support essential workers and available when it is needed, both now and after the pandemic.
- The Michigan Legislature is considering a package of bills that strengthens telehealth coverage and allows additional modes of communication including telephone, expands the types of services patients can seek through telehealth and where the patient must be located when receiving care.
Provide people with the financial and health care security they need to weather COVID-19 and other health care needs they face.
- Kansas Governor Laura Kelly today signed the bipartisan COVID-19 response bill, House Bill 2016 into law that among other provisions, expands scope of practice provisions for some practicing nurses and broadens the use of telemedicine. The provisions are effective through January 2021 so should be reconsidered when the Legislature reconvenes next year.
Mental Health + Substance Use Disorders
- North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed a school mental health bill into law that requires K-12 schools to implement a school-based mental health plan that includes a mental health training program and suicide risk referral protocol.
- The Maine Department of Health and Human Services will use nearly $1 million in federal funding awarded this week for a program to help Maine people cope with the psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, through both direct support for individuals exposed to the virus and proactive outreach aimed at reducing the long-term behavioral health impacts of the pandemic.
Ensure a health care system that cares for everyone, including people who are vulnerable and those who were already struggling before the pandemic hit.
- North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed an Executive Order to address the social, environmental, economic, and health disparities in communities of color that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Order directs state agencies and offices to provide targeted measures to help communities of color that have been affected by the pandemic.