Coping with COVID-19: Standing up a comprehensive behavioral health response to the pandemic




disaster behavioral health, behavioral health response, emergency response


Integrating behavioral health (BH) into disaster preparedness and response is essential to mitigate and address the BH impacts of disasters, support incident response personnel well-being, and to integrate disaster BH concepts into response strategies and communications. This article describes the development, implementation, and lessons learned from a statewide BH response to this disaster by the COVID-19 Behavioral Health Group (COVID-19 BHG). Operating within the Washington State Department of Health (WA DOH), the BHG is comprised of psychologists and psychiatrists with expertise in disaster BH and response, BH epidemiologists, data analysts, systems specialists, emergency managers, and other DOH staff. The wide array of expertise on the team allowed the COVID-19 BHG to build response functions to match the demands created by the pandemic. This included an Impact & Capacity Assessment function, which developed and distributed monthly impact forecasts and weekly BH situational reports. A Training and Guidance team then collaborated with partners to develop and deliver trainings, resource documents, and public messaging. Additionally, the COVID-19 BHG worked closely with the Health Care Authority (HCA) and BH organizations statewide to maintain the ability of the BH system to deliver care and expand services to meet additional needs. This article describes the development and deployment of an innovative and unique statewide BH response, within the WA DOH during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Author Biographies

Tona Lynn McGuire, PhD

Co-Lead, Behavioral Health Strike Team, Behavioral Health Group, Washington State Department of Health, Olympia, Washington

Trevor Nathaniel Covington, MS, CEM

Washington State Coordinator, Western Regional Alliance for Pediatric Emergency Management (WRAP-EM); Owner & Senior Consultant, Protean Preparedness, Olympia, Washington

Kira Brooke Mauseth, PhD

Associate Teaching Professor, Psychology; Co-Lead, Washington State Department of Health Behavioral Health Strike Team, Olympia, Washington

Mary Beth Brown, BS

Behavioral Health Strategist, Washington State Department of Health, Olympia, Washington


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How to Cite

McGuire, T. L., T. N. Covington, K. B. Mauseth, and M. B. Brown. “Coping With COVID-19: Standing up a Comprehensive Behavioral Health Response to the Pandemic”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 21, no. 6, Dec. 2023, pp. 577-98, doi:10.5055/jem.0783.