By Ashley Snodgrass, Employee Benefits Analyst
The end of COVID has been up for debate. Some people feel as though the pandemic was over when the mask mandates went away, while others think the pandemic ended as soon as vaccines were available. And then there are some super rosy people who say the pandemic will never be over! What is the truth?
One way to look at the end of COVID-19 is to recall the start of the pandemic. On January 31, 2020, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, declared a public health emergency due to confirmed cases in the United States of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. This official order stated the public health emergency has existed since January 27, 2020. After a long and interesting three years, the Biden Administration is ready to end the public health emergency on May 11, 2023. Even though life has resumed some semblance of a “new normal” for many people, the end of this public health emergency will still have some meaningful impacts for health plans.
For example, health plans will no longer have to cover COVID-19 testing with no member cost sharing. Also, health plans will only be required to cover in-network COVID-19 vaccines, similar to other preventive services requirements. Health plans that offer COBRA coverage must ensure that regular deadlines resume too – such as the 60-day election period for COBRA.
I would recommend that you review this handy document from Zywave for a detailed account of all the changes that will be triggered by the end of the public health emergency. Don’t let these end-of-pandemic changes catch you as off guard as the start of the pandemic.
For questions about what this could mean for your organization, please contact your RISQ Employee Benefits Consultants or Account Executive, or email@example.com.
By Ashley Snodgrass, Employee Benefits Analyst
As of July 16, 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is changing to be more easily accessible. Now help is only a three-digit number (988) away.
According to Alaska Department of Health Division of Behavioral Health, this change has been planned for many years. The goal is to make it easier to connect anyone in distress to “compassionate, accessible support,” including trained crisis counselors.
I’d like to highlight some statistics that support why this hotline is needed. These are taken directly from the State of Alaska’s FAQ about the new 988 hotline:
“Alaska and the nation are experiencing a mental health crisis. But the crisis is not irreversible.
- In Alaska in 2020, suicide was the leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native youth ages 10-19, and for youth ages 10-14. Suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death overall for all Alaska youth and young adults, ages 15-34.
- According to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019, over 1 in 3 Alaska high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row; 25% seriously considered attempting suicide; and nearly 20% attempted suicide.
- When fully implemented, 988 will improve Alaska’s system of care that responds to individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
- Those statistics are sobering, but there is good news:
- Suicide is most often preventable. For every person who dies by suicide annually, there are 316 people who seriously consider suicide but do not kill themselves.
- Over 90% of people who attempt suicide go on to live out their lives.”
An FAQ about the 988 Hotline has been made available on the State of Alaska’s webpage, accessible at https://health.alaska.gov/dbh/Pages/Prevention/988/default.aspx#faq
I’ve compiled some additional resources for mental health services in Alaska below:
- Alaska’s Careline: 1-877-266-4357 (HELP) or text “4help” at 839863
- 24/7 free and confidential crisis line
- UAA Psychological Services Center: 907-786-1795
- Telehealth counseling services available at reduced costs to all members of the community.
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255, or use Veterans Crisis Chat on the web
- The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource that connects veterans 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a trained responder. The service is available to all veterans, even if they are not registered with the VA or enrolled in VA healthcare.
- State of Alaska Behavioral Health Links & Resources
- Including links to Community Treatment and Recovery Providers with Websites:
In case of emergency, always call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room for treatment.
This article is from RISQ Consulting’s Zywave client portal, a resource available to all RISQ Consulting clients. Please contact your Benefits Consultant or Account Executive for more information or for help setting up your own login.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (Lifeline) launched nationwide on July 16. Similar to dialing 911 for medical emergencies, people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis can call or text 988 and be connected immediately to trained counselors who will listen, provide support and connect them to resources if necessary.
The three-digit dialing code is new, but the Lifeline is not. Previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, callers only reached the 24/7 national crisis hotline by dialing 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). The easy-to-remember dialing code (988) is meant to replace that number; however, callers will still be connected to the same services, regardless of which number is used. The Lifeline provides services in both English and Spanish.
“We have a three-digit number for medical emergencies; we need a three-digit number for psychological emergencies—and that’s what this is.”
– John Draper, executive director, Lifeline
Since 2005, the Lifeline has been a network of roughly 200 crisis centers funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Since its founding, the Lifeline has received more than 20 million calls from people in distress looking for help when they needed it most. Nearly 2.4 million calls occurred in 2020 alone, illustrating America’s current mental health crisis.
Spreading the Word About 988
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among preteens and adults aged 25 to 34, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Lifeline is a direct connection to compassionate, accessible care for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress, including thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or other emotional struggles. People can also call the Lifeline if they are worried about a loved one who may need emergency support.
Just as Americans know to call 911 in a medical emergency, it’s vital to spread the word about 988 in your own state. This new three-digit dialing code could provide immediate support during someone’s darkest hour.