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Community Association Communications and Keeping our Communities Connected during COVID-19

Our pandemic situation continues to be fluid. It is difficult to get a handle on stay-at-home orders, best practices for health and safety, and where all of this is headed. We have many who are out of work. We have health workers who are exhausted and taxed beyond limits. We have shortages of protective equipment, and some grocery items. All of this stays with us all day even if we are fortunate enough to be able to work, and to continue to have work to do. It is more important than ever for our community leaders to have consistent and frequent communications with their residents, and for our managers and attorneys to continue to provide guidance to our communities. It is also critical that community leaders, managers and attorneys take time for their own mental health.

Community communications

If you do not have the capability to email most of your residents we suggest that you implement this process. Either mail or post on your website a request form to permit the use of email addresses by your residents. Once you have this capability, and for those communities that already have this ability, we suggest a weekly or bi-weekly communications. These do not have to be full-blown newsletters but rather a short communication with information on the current status of facilities, and ongoing operations, including updates on any new Executive Orders from the Governor, or new or revised health and safety guidance from our governmental agencies.

One of the side effects of the stay-at-home order is a feeling of isolation and loneliness. Our mental health professionals are seeing increases in anxiety and depression. Staying in touch with each other is a helpful factor for battling these feelings, and providing a connection to each other. Providing information on mental health and contact information for mental health hotlines or professionals in your area may be helpful to some of your residents.

Lighter reading is also suggested – sharing recipes, exercise programs, information on the history or significance of upcoming holidays (such as Earth Day, May Day, Mother’s Day etc.), or spotlighting local historical information. For exercise programs, consider coordinating with a local gym owner to obtain videos or exercise programs to provide to your residents. Our local gyms are closed so obtaining services from them in this fashion is another way to help our businesses that have been ordered to close.

Resources to share with your community

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website contains a great deal of information including communications that you can send to your residents. There is also a section managing stress. The links are below:

The Mayo Clinic (as well as many other health providers) has posted information on mental health and Covid-19. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/mental-health-covid-19/art-20482731

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has mental health information and a free, confidential helpline. https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a Covid-19 guide and a free, confidential helpline. https://www.nami.org/covid-19-guide. Call the NAMI Help Line Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., ET (800) 950-6264.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness also has local affiliates for your area and a Virginia helpline. Virginia NAMI Helpline for Information & Resources: email mailto:info@namivirginia.org or call 1-888-486-8264. Find your local affiliate at https://www.nami.org/Find-Your-Local-NAMI/Affiliate?state=VA

Please continue to safeguard your health and safety and the safety and health of others. Hand-washing, mask-wearing, social distancing are critical, and don’t forget to take care of yourself – eat well, get some exercise, and take some time to reach out to colleagues, friends and family just to chat. Together we are stronger, smarter, and safer!

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Susan Tarley

Susan chairs the firm's common interest community (HOAs and Condos) practice area. She was admitted into the College of Community Association Attorneys (“CCAL”). Susan is one of fewer than 150 attorneys nationwide to be admitted to CCAL, for distinguishing herself through contributions to the evolution or practice of community association law.

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