Resources for State and Local Governments

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), may be stressful for people and communities.
Learn more about coping during COVID-19.

Emergencies can have a significant impact on individuals’ mental and behavioral health. State and local health departments should include mental health management in each phase of a disaster (pre-event, response, recovery, and evaluation).

  • Disaster Distress Helpline: CALL or TEXT 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish).
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing ASL users can call the DDH hotline via their videophone-enabled device or click on “ASL Now” at to connect directly with DDH crisis counselors fluent in ASL.

Pre-Event Phase

A group of diverse people stand in a circle holding hands raised up above their heads. They are outside in a green, grassy field. They are smiling at each other.

Assess the demographic and social characteristics of your community


  • Understand demographic and social characteristics. Identify the language needs, cultural considerations, and reading levels in your area.
  • Build relationships with public health officials, community stakeholders, private and public medical providers, and school officials.
  • Identify policy and resources for staff support.
  • Find behavioral health treatment facilities in your state.
  • Work with the National Association of Mental Health Program Directors.

Assess these community characteristics:

  • Culture, religion, ethnicity
  • Shared values
  • Social resources
  • At-risk populations
  • Language spoken
  • Average level of education
  • Access to healthcare
  • Local non-government and community-based organizations


A group of public health planners and mental health professionals meet to build partnerships prior to an emergency. A group of four women sits in a circle talking. The woman in focus at the center of the picture is wearing a pink sweater, brown pants, and is holding a cup of coffee. She has a big smile on her face, and she is using her hands expressively as she talks.

Establish relationships with mental health partners ahead of time.

  • Establish the role of partners, like community-based organizations, in mental health services during an emergency.
  • Identify and train mental health professionals and response staff to provide counseling, triage, outreach, and education during a crisis or emergency.
  • Plan for interpreter and translation services.
  • Train provider groups, including public health nurses, school health professionals, and community support workers in psychosocial consequences of terrorism and disasters.
  • Develop a risk communication plan and templates.
  • Develop a triage system to connect victims with emergency mental health services when needed.

Response Phase

A man and woman stand discussing an informational brochure.

Distribute educational information appropriate to the event

  • First meet basic safety and security needs of target populations.
  • Provide Psychological First Aid at response sites.
  • Use crisis and emergency risk communication principles in all messaging.
  • Continue to monitor the mental health needs of victims and responders.
  • Provide access to counselors in all appropriate languages.
  • Distribute educational information appropriate to the event.
  • Use triage system to connect victims in acute distress with professional services.
  • Provide coping resources for responders and their families.

Recovery Phase

Community members work together to paint a wall.

Give the community opportunities to come together

  • Continue to monitor mental health needs in the affected population.
  • Train social and community leaders on how to help their groups cope.
  • Give the community opportunities to come together.
  • Promote availability of coping resources.
  • Anticipate and plan to deal with trauma reminders (such as anniversaries of the event date, or the broadcast of similar incidents on the news).

Evaluation Phase

  • Monitor for long-term mental stress in the community and for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • Identify and address gaps in your mental health preparedness plan.

Additional Resources