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Crisis Counseling Services for People with Disabilities During COVID-19

Case Study Last Reviewed: July 17, 2020

Amid the increase in counseling need during the COVID-19 pandemic, crisis counseling providers can train staff on disability-related topics, such as etiquette and accessible communication, to enhance the reach of their services. Crisis counseling services can include auxiliary aids and services for individuals who may have access and functional needs.

The following is a list of key findings and considerations for jurisdictions and communities regarding ongoing COVID-19 pandemic operations across the country. These are best practices for consideration and do not constitute or should not be considered as guidance in any way.

This document contains references and links to non-federal resources and organizations. This information is meant solely for informational purposes and is not intended to be an endorsement of any non-federal entity by FEMA, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or the U.S. government.

Areas for Improvement

  • Reportedly one-third of Americans experienced high levels of psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. For people with disabilities that limit communication, limited access to voice and text can hinder their ability to seek and get help.
    • Mitigating Action: Crisis counseling services can be delivered by phone, internet, social media, and other virtual means of communication, expanding accessibility for some with disabilities.
    • Mitigating Action: Providers may be able to develop auxiliary aids and services for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing or who are blind or have low vision to ensure effective communication with persons who may have access and functional needs.

Potential Best Practices

  • State, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) partners can leverage technical assistance provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in consultation with national disability stakeholder organizations and other federal partners, to find solutions to the current challenges faced by people with disabilities when accessing FEMA’s Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP) virtually.
  • Crisis counseling providers should consider training staff on disability topics related to accessible communication, disability etiquette and accommodations, and the disability support system.

Strengths

  • FEMA announced its approval of 50 states and territories, including the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico for its CCP program. CCP helps fund SLTT-provided crisis counseling services to residents struggling with stress and anxiety as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Last updated February 3, 2021