The U.S. territory of Guam is seeking emergency funding to support mental health treatment for the community amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center (GBHWC) has been the island’s only state agency for mental health and substance use services since 1983. The proposed populations of focus include 1) adults 18 years of age and older with a Serious Mental Illness (SMI), Substance Use Disorder (SUD), and/or Co-Occurring Disorder (COD); 2) Healthcare professionals and first-responders experiencing a mental disorder less severe than SMI as a result of COVID-19; and 3) Other individuals 18 years of age and older experiencing mental disorders less severe than SMI as a result of COVID-19.
GBHWC reported over 3,300 clients in 2019 with approximately 2,000 individuals diagnosed with an SMI, 800 experiencing an SUD, and roughly 600 experiencing a mental disorder less severe than SMI. These numbers are expected to increase drastically as the island continues to see community spread. As the closest U.S. soil to the epicenter of the disease, Guam is experiencing added concerns due to its dependence on tourism from Asian countries considered hotspots of COVID-19, including China. Despite its small but diverse population of 159,000 people, Guam’s Department of Labor estimates over 38,000 people will need unemployment assistance as a result of COVID-19.
In 25 days, Guam confirmed 128 positive COVID-19 cases that resulted in 4 deaths. In addition, the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier docked in Guam, with over 200 of their 5,000 sailors testing positive for COVID-19. Additionally, healthcare professionals continue to face great risks of contracting the Corona virus due to the national shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to safeguard them as they treat the community, with anxiety and fear growing after 13 healthcare workers have reportedly already contracted the disease. Compounded with that, is a shortage of medical professionals across the island, further proving how imperative it is to ensure that mental health treatments and supports are available to them.
This emergency funding is needed to build GBHWC’s capacity to provide continued mental health services and supports to the identified populations during this public health emergency. In keeping with the Governor’s mandate of social distancing, the applicant organization proposes to utilize Telehealth in its service provision of evidence-based practices, through videoconferencing and telephone.
GBHWC proposes to use grant funds to serve 150 individuals in addition to the over 3,300 consumers annually, as a direct result of this COVID-19 pandemic.