The ongoing global coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-02), has caused global social and economic disruption, including the largest global recession since the Great Recession. It upended businesses and schools, as well as religious, cultural, and sports and recreational events.
New Orleans was one of the earliest hotspots in the United States for the coronavirus outbreak. It led to serious stresses on the healthcare system, stay-at-home orders for most citizens, closure of schools and offices, and more familiarity with Zoom than most of us could have imagined. Tulane Child and Adolescent Psychiatry responded by transitioning immediately to telehealth services at every clinical site and ensuring that our patients were safe and receiving treatment. Because we have years of experience with telehealth, we were able to adapt quickly and effectively to this change.
We also sought to respond to the needs of our frontline healthcare colleagues, parents and children in the community, and other professional colleagues. Below are several of the organized efforts we made:
• Angie Breidenstine organized stress reduction (virtual) groups (”Surfing Practice”) and made them available to Tulane/HCA faculty and staff, to provide support during the pandemic. The groups were led by Angie Breidenstine, Myo Thwin Myint, Sarah Hinshaw-Fuselier, Aaron Armelie, Caroline Campion, Myrline Rose Belzince, and Allison Darga.
• The Tulane Parenting Education Program (T-PEP) developed tips for DCFS workers about how to evaluate children’s safety and well-being virtually.
• Faculty and trainees created a virtual series for the public in collaboration with the Louisiana Children’s Museum called “In Dialogue.” These are weekly topical presentations related to coping for children and parents. Coordinated by Angie Breidenstine, the following faculty, trainees and staff presented: Elizabeth Allain, Angie Breidenstine, Sarah Hinshaw-Fuselier, Emily Graber, Bess Hart, Angela Keyes, Kristen Pearson, Nithya Ravindran, Myo Thwin Myint, Paula Zeanah, Devi Murphy, Maegan Vincent, Silai Mirzoy, and Kasia Plessy. This activity was coordinated by Angie Breidenstine. Angie Breidenstine was interviewed along with Julia Bland from the Louisiana Children’s Museum on the WWL “Newell Normand Show”“Building Resilience: Parenting During a Pandemic” mental health/parenting tips.
• Kathryn Humphreys (Vanderbilt Psychologist and former Tulane Postdoc), Myo Thwin Myint and Charley Zeanah published a paper in Pediatrics calling attention to the increased risks for family violence in the pandemic and pointers for pediatricians and parents.
• Silai Mirzoy and Angie Breidenstine developed a tip sheet for parents and children for the Louisiana Children’s Museum that was distributed to other children’s museums around the country. “Building Resilience: Parenting During a Pandemic” is posted online and available for download through the LCM: https://www.lcm.org/building-resilience/.
• Paula Zeanah, Sarah Hinshaw-Fuselier and Sherry Heller led stress management groups for the Bureau of Family Health (Office of Public Health) staff about coping with COVID-19.
• Melissa Middleton and Letia Bailey provided a series of COVID-19 related grief support sessions to the Department of Children and Family Services.
• Through the Tulane Early Childhood Collaborative, Melissa Middleton provided virtual guidance to pediatric providers on coping with COVID-19 related stressors.