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COVID-19 Information for Mental Health and Substance Use Professionals

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many of us work. These resources are here to support mental health and substance use professionals to safely provide excellent patient care through the pandemic, and in to recovery.

Page updated: September 24, 2020

PPE Guidelines for BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services

The Ministry of Health has issued a framework for the use of PPE in health care settings. The primary motivation behind the creation of this framework is to ensure best practice Infection Control and Prevention (IPAC) practices while ensuring PPE is preserved and use where it is most needed and clinically appropriate.

A procedure has been created for the application of these new PPE guidelines for BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services. Please review these guidelines carefully.

Staff support and resources during COVID-19 pandemic

Information about available resources can be found on the PHSA website. Additionally, you will find resources and information to support health care providers providing care and services during the COVID-19 pandemic on the BCCDC website.

PHSA's Psychological Health, Safety and Wellness team supports the mental health of all employees in any PHSA program, service, or division. Questions? Email

Exposures to COVID-19 and protecting myself and others

You are considered a high risk exposure if you:
  • have been in contact with a symptomatic person who tested positive for the virus; AND
  • had at 15 minutes or more of close (e.g. face to face) contact with them (in one instance or cumulative) within 2 metres; AND
  • were not equipped with proper PPE.

If you are a contact of a confirmed case, a member of the public health team will contact you to let you know you may have been exposed. 

If you have symptoms, you will be sent for testing. 

If you do not have symptoms, you will be asked to self-isolate so that if you develop COVID-19, you won't spread it to others in the community. 

If you were at work during the exposure, a public health and/or an occupational health nurse (PHSA, Provincial Workplace Health Call Centre) will be in contact with you. 

Contact tracing efforts consider all individuals who have had contact with a person who tested positive for the virus. 

There are many things you can do to protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work. COVID-19 is spread by liquid droplets when a person coughs, sneezes or sometimes talks or sings. If you are in close contact with a person with COVID-19, the virus can enter the body if droplets get into the eyes, nose or throat. It is important to use contact and droplet precautions when caring for a person with a confirmed or possible case of COVID-19. Contact and droplet precautions include gloves, gown, appropriate mask, and eye protection. 

There are several preventative measures and actions you can take to stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19:
  • Reduce droplet contact: cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Hand-hygiene: wash your hands with soap and water regularly. If soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) can be used for hand hygiene as long as your hands are not visibly soiled. If they are visibly soiled, use a wipe and then ABHR to effectively perform hand hygiene.
  • Personal protective equipment: Follow site-specific PPE practices as per infection control guidance. For more information refer to the BCCDC page on PPE, donning and doffing.
    • Masks: Medical-grade procedure/surgical masks must be used when providing direct care for patients unless otherwise directed by Infection Control. For more instructions on how to put on and remove a surgical mask, review the How to Wear a Surgical Mask poster.
    • Airborne precautions: use an N95 respirator, eye protection (face shield, safety glasses or goggles), gown and gloves for aerosol-generating procedures for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.
All surgical masks provide droplet protection. The main difference is splash resistance. Learn more about the different levels of masks and their efficacy against droplet splash. Please note all three levels will filtrate particles > 0.1 micron.  

To be effective, masks must be worn properly and used together with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand hygiene, physical distancing, and not touching your face. Touching your face when wearing a mask, or putting it on or taking it off incorrectly, will increase the chance of getting infected.
Infectious agents are introduced to the eye either directly (e.g., blood splashes, respiratory droplets generated during coughing or suctioning) or from touching the eyes with contaminated fingers or other objects. Eye protection provides a barrier to infectious materials entering the eye. Goggles or face shields are required PPE for droplet, contact and airborne precautions. Eye protection (googles or face shields) is required when caring for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. 

Learn more:

Your health and safety continues to be our top priority. Checking your symptoms through mobile-friendly COVID-19 Symptom Checking Tool or COVID-19 Symptom Check Screening Tool (paper version) is important to prevent the introduction of the virus at our sites. Staff and physicians are required to complete mandatory screening prior to starting every shift.

We are creating a process where PPE supplies will be filled from the PPE storage cart, located on or between units. Each unit will get their PPE supplies from the PPE storage cart for each shift. The storage cart will be stocked by Stores.

As a health professional, you worry about the safety of your family and others. Continue to practice frequent hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette at home. Visit the BCCDC Prevention and Risks webpage to learn more about things you can do to prevent the spread. If you live with vulnerable populations (i.e. elderly, immunocompromised), please follow the BCCDC guidance for vulnerable populations

If you have questions concerning your individual situation, please call the PHSA COVID-19 Resource Line for guidance at 1-833-875-2155 or 604-875-2155. 

To keep patients, families and staff safe, we are strictly limiting the number of visitors at the moment to decrease the risk of COVID-19 being brought in to our sites.

In addition to limiting visitors, we are taking many steps to limit the risk of transmission and keep staff, patients and clients safe including:

Staff are wearing (personal protective equipment) PPE when necessary and always washing or sanitizing their hands frequently.

We're cleaning shared spaces very often and very carefully.

Staff are safely disposing of items like gloves and masks to keep rooms and clothing free from germs.

Staff at only permitted to work at one long term care facility.

We are limiting the number and size of gatherings and outings. If a group or outing goes ahead, the size will be decreased to ensure there is a space two metres between patients to prevent the spread of infection.

COVID-19 can be mitigated through staff, patient and physician adherence to the things we know work: physical distancing, hand hygiene, and proper use of appropriate PPE. 

We also need to ensure that we are maintaining the welfare of our patients through this difficult time. This includes planning for their rehabilitation and discharge; the use of therapeutic passes into the community is an essential part of this. We continue take advice from our Public Health colleagues during our daily Emergency Operations Centre. 

COVID-19 can be mitigated through staff, patient and physician adherence to the things we know work: physical distancing, hand hygiene, and proper use of appropriate PPE. We also need to ensure that we are maintaining the welfare of our patients through this difficult time. This includes planning for their rehabilitation and discharge; the use of therapeutic passes into the community is an essential part of this. We continue take advice from our Public Health colleagues during our daily Emergency Operations Centre.  

We all, as a communal approach, should be politely reminding each other about COVID safety rules.


Symptoms and testing for COVID-19

COVID-19 symptoms may range from mild to severe and include fever, cough, chills, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose, loss of sense of smell or taste, headache, fatigue, diarrhea, loss of appetite. For more information, please refer to the BCCDC website.


Public Health conducts contact tracing throughout the community and makes decisions around safety measures according to risk level associated to the potential exposures, which may include possible exposures occurred in the community.


Anyone with cold, influenza or COVID-like symptoms can now be assessed and get a COVID-19 test from a physician, nurse practitioner or local community collection centre. For specific information about staff COVID-19 testing please refer to the PHSA website. The COVID-19 self-assessment tool helps users determine whether they need further assessment or testing for COVID-19. Share this tool with patients, family members, friends or colleagues who are asking whether they need to be tested.


Public Health will determine when you can return to work. You may hear directly from Public Health or through a PHSA occupational health nurse. Generally, the guidelines on the Testing for health care workers page on the BCCDC website are followed. The Health Care Worker Return to Work Decision Tree summarizes the guidance and can be used as a tool to support decision-making.

While you are at work: Wear a mask and report to your immediate supervisor to determine the need for testing and replacement. If unsure, please refer to the PHSA COVID-19 Resource Line at 1-833-875-2155 toll free or 604-875-7244. If testing is recommended, get tested, then go home, self-isolate, and wait for test results and further direction. 

While you are not at work: If symptomatic, do not come in to work unless essential as determined by leadership. You may not have COVID-19, but could still be infectious to others with something else. Follow routine practices for calling in sick (i.e. PEARL, contacting leadership depending on program area). If you must be on-site and are symptomatic, you must wear a procedure/surgical mask and feel generally well enough to work. If you are unsure about if you need to be tested, contact the PHSA COVID-19 Resource Line (1-833-875-2155 toll free or 604-875-7244) for more information. 

If you are unable to work due to other COVID-19 related issues such as anxiety or socio-environmental challenges, there are multiple free resources by phone or online available to support your overall health and well-being.

COVID-19 symptom checking tool for staff and physicians

The new online symptom checking tool is a convenient option to ensure that staff and physicians complete mandatory screening prior to starting each shift. 

There will now be two ways for staff and physicians to complete their screening: 

Complete the COVID-19 symptom checking tool prior to coming to work or upon arrival at the site.
How does this tool work? 
  • A reminder e-mail to complete the symptom checking tool will be sent to all staff and physicians daily. Staff and physicians will be asked to complete this prior to coming to work or upon arrival at the site.
  • The tool works best in Chrome, Firefox or Safari. It does not collect any personal information and the information you enter is confidential. Please see the Quick Reference Guide on how to bookmark the COVID-19 screening tool to your device.
  • The tool asks questions about COVID-19 symptoms, then it offers a green, yellow or red screen with instructions. These screens indicate whether staff/physicians are fine to head into work (green), should call their manager for advice (yellow) or should get tested and stay home (red). 
  • Staff and physicians will be required to sign off on the BCMHSUS COVID-19 Staff Self-Screening Documentation Sheet that they have completed the symptom checking tool and donned the required PPE prior to commencing their shift. 
  • Spot checks may occur by supervisors and/or screeners at the entrance. If asked by a supervisor or screener, please show your completed green screen on your mobile phone indicating that it is safe for you to be at work.
Correctional Health Services 
CHS staff and physicians are encouraged to complete the self-screening tool at home. If your completed screen is red, please stay at home and do not proceed to work for further screening. 
Who should I contact if I have questions?
Consult the COVID-19 Resource Line at 1-833-875-2155 (toll free) or 604-875-7244 for support. 

Important - if the online symptom checking tool advises you to contact your manager (yellow screen) and you are asked to come to work, you will be required to wear a mask at all times.

The Staff COVID-19 Symptom Check Screening Tool process remains the same with the completion of the screening on the provided sheet. You can continue with this process if you do not have access to a mobile phone. Eventually we hope to transition all staff and physicians to the online tool.


Virtual health resources

Now more than ever, virtual health solutions are key to continuing to deliver safe, effective care to our patients and clients. 

The town halls are an important opportunity to hear updates from leadership and subject matter experts and for staff to ask any questions they may have about how we are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic across BCMHSUS, and also get answers to any site specific concerns.

Additional resources

SOURCE: COVID-19 Information for Mental Health and Substance Use Professionals ( )
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