NASW RRG Statement on In-person Social Work/Mental Health Services During the COVID-19 Crisis
The COVID-19 crisis has challenged all of us – social workers and all mental health providers, clients, family members, and every facet of society. The NASW RRG applauds our policyholder’s motivation to serve and we believe that support and understanding surrounding the new context of service delivery is a critical next step for those considering a move back to in-person client care.
In its professional risk management role as your liability insurer, the NASW RRG believes that providing in-person services during this crisis adds new risk to clients, providers, and the community. If teletherapy is an option for your client, please continue. As considered in the professional standards of the use of technology, if your client has been working successfully in your care with the use of teletherapy options, it is the best option at this point. Review the standards online.
We understand that not all circumstances allow for teletherapy. Policyholders should use additional caution when considering in-person care. At this point, it is risky to resume in-person services without setting forth safety-focused changes and procedures to protect clients.
For our policyholders who are considering resumption of in-person services during this time, please consider the following risk management steps:
- Conduct a regulatory and safety review, understanding the status of any local and/or state emergency and shelter-in-place orders.
- Perform risk analysis and plan an in-person safety process, considering each client’s and immediate family members’ health risk categories. In addition, consider your health risk, any surrounding staff, and family members when all return home.
- Document the safety plan and course of action.
- With the plan developed, set expectations with clients, this can be by an informed consent that adopts your regional and service area considerations with the health department, CDC, and regulatory guidance.
- Document all the steps and decisions in each in-person client file, keeping in mind the decision by the social worker that the client’s need for services cannot be adequately met through another method besides in-person care. If harm occurs, professional documentation needs to show a clear justification for the decision.
We all know that COVID 19 is a virus that scientists and medical professionals are working around the clock to solve. With that, new information, discoveries, and safety measures are implemented frequently and may be subject to change. As public information grows, especially around ways to stop the spread of the illness, social workers and mental health providers will be held to the standard of what a reasonable professional in a similar situation should have known and should have implemented in their practice.