Autism Spectrum News and Behavioral Health News: Supporting the Community During the COVID-19 Crisis

The current pandemic shows us how difficult social distancing and sheltering in place have been for the general public. It has been especially hard for people with mental illness, substance use disorders, and people on the autism spectrum.

During my own 10-year battle with depression I experienced isolation, social distancing and stigma first-hand. These of course were some of the difficult side-effects of my illness. Now that we are all living with the COVID-19 crisis, my experience provides a unique perspective and understanding of the many issues affecting the behavioral health and autism communities and the organizations that care for and provide services to them.

Ira H. Minot, LMSW

Ira H. Minot, LMSW
Founder & Executive Director

Following my recovery, I founded Mental Health News, the precursor of what is now Behavioral Health News (BHN). One of the main reasons that drove me to start the publication was that, outside of the few hours a day I spent in out-patient programs, no one was reaching out to me where I lived.

I could have greatly benefited by having a resource like BHN to help alleviate the isolation I experienced in my lonely supported housing apartment. It would have also been helpful to stay informed on the latest mental health information and have access to a roadmap to the many programs, services and organizations in the community that could have helped me during my recovery; programs such as local drop-in centers and support meetings that were being held by organizations such as NAMI, MHA, NYAPRS, and ACCES-VR (formerly known as VESID – New York’s employment program for people with disabilities).

MHNE Launches Two New Websites

Mental Health News Education, Inc. (MHNE), the nonprofit organization that publishes Autism Spectrum News (ASN) and Behavioral Health News, has recently launched two new websites! They are in a totally new format in which articles and advertising are now presented as their own shareable posts. Also, now everything is searchable by title, subject matter and author, going back in time to the first issues of each publication. Now, articles can be easily shared between families and colleagues who will greatly benefit by our award-winning platform of ideas, resources and information.

In addition, each new website has social media integrated for an easy sharing experience to give more visibility to the content. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in traffic at BehavioralHealthNews.org and AutismSpectrumNews.org is (at the time this article was published) averaging 350 views per day; 11,000 per month; 132,000 per year!

Content That Speaks to the Issues

Through our quarterly print publications, two brand new websites and our social media channels, we are now reaching over 200,000 individuals each year, serving as a beacon of hope for individuals living with autism, mental health issues, and substance use disorders and their families. In just the last year, both ASN and BHN have addressed topics that speak to issues that are compelling and affect the communities that we serve. Here is a snapshot of last year’s issues:

ASN Spring 2020 Issue
“Supporting Girls and Women with Autism”

ASN Winter 2020 Issue
“Autism and Neurodiversity”

ASN Fall 2019 Issue
“Autism and Community Engagement”

ASN Summer 2019 Issue
“Supporting Older Adults with Autism”

BHN Spring 2020 Issue
“Housing: An Essential Element of Recovery”

BHN Winter 2020 Issue
“Addressing the Nation’s Opioid Epidemic”

BHN Fall 2019 Issue
“Examining Models of Integrated Care”

BHN Summer 2019 Issue
“The Behavioral Health Workforce”

Your Trusted Source

For over 20 years, Autism Spectrum News has dedicated itself to being “Your trusted source of science-based autism education, information, advocacy, and community resources.” It has been our masthead slogan over these many years, and this issue accomplishes our mission by devoting the theme entirely to “The Autism Community’s Response to COVID-19.”

The Current COVID-19 Crisis: The New Normal for Our Community

Consumers, families and the organizations that provide services to them are going through monumental hardships and challenges during the current crisis. In the aftermath of the crisis, many organizations will have had to adapt to the changing times in terms of delivering services and the financial hardships they have suddenly encountered. The dust hasn’t yet settled but many organizations that have suffered financial hardship during the crisis may have had to furlough or restructure staff and rethink the many services they can and perhaps can’t provide. This new normal will result in a dire need for small organizations to fundraise in creative ways so that they don’t have to shut their doors.

Autism Spectrum News Future in Jeopardy

MHNE is a very small organization run by only two people: myself and my son David Minot – my Associate Director and Publisher of Autism Spectrum News. Many people think we have a large staff, but we haven’t been able to hire support staff due to our small budget. The organizations we partner with are going through their own financial hardships during the COVID-19 crisis, and we’ve had to cancel our annual Leadership Award Reception fundraising event; we are in a very difficult financial situation.

We will be launching an emergency COVID-19 Appeal for funding on June 30th, the day when our event would have taken place. Our goal is to raise $40,000, and we invite you to please give as generously as you can to demonstrate your commitment and help sustain our award-winning publications.

Thank you so much for your compassion and generosity. We stand together and we will get through this as a community.

ASN Appeal 2020