SOCIAL ISOLATION AND LONELINESS: State Policies and Interventions for the Post-COVID Era


• Issue: The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated what was already an epidemic of social isolation and loneliness in the United States. As the COVID-19-induced isolation recedes, state policymakers, health care providers, and other stakeholders can look to a broad array of strategies, policies, and interventions to address social isolation and loneliness issues that remain for all ages.
• Goal: Examine the array of policy and intervention options available to stakeholders in shaping a post-COVID paradigm of social integration and inclusion.
• Methods: Review of policies, challenges, existing state legislation, programs, interventions, new avenues for action, and international solutions.
• Key Findings: Existing state legislative initiatives focus on defining and identifying social isolation and its dangers and minimizing or preventing isolation and loneliness among older adults. The challenges exposed by the pandemic-imposed isolation of older adults in long-term care facilities clearly speak to the need for those policies to continue and expand. Future avenues for policy development include creating social-emotional learning curricula and providing psychiatric services via telehealth in schools, addressing the social isolation of those involved in agriculture, and other geographically isolated professions, training teachers to identify social isolation and other warning signs in their students and attending to the shortage of mental health providers.
• Conclusion: Researchers see a need for greater inclusion of various populations when it comes to testing the effectiveness of social isolation interventions and developing the evidence of health effects of social isolation and loneliness.

Mental Health Resource Guide for State Policymakers

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the nation’s mental health. Fortunately, this global pandemic has also placed a spotlight on both the long-standing challenges in providing mental health services and the programs, policies, interventions and legal remedies that have proven most effective in addressing those challenges.
As the pandemic entered its second year, The Council of State Governments (CSG) embarked on a nine-month partnership with The Commonwealth Fund to assemble this Mental Health Resource Guide for State Policymakers. The goal of the project was to highlight the challenges and solutions across these four focus areas in mental health policy:
• Social isolation and loneliness
• Maternal mental health
• Social determinants of mental health
• Mental health insurance parity
To inform the content of this resource guide, CSG formed a 19-member advisory group made up of state legislators from six states, state executive branch health officials from eight additional states, and subject-matter experts in each focus area. During a series of meetings in the spring and summer of 2021, the group heard presentations about existing research findings related to the challenges in each area and shared strategies for addressing them. The discussions were informed by the work of the Executive Summary CSG research team, which produced extensive research and policy scans for each focus area.
With oversight from The Commonwealth Fund and input from other stakeholders, CSG policy analysts and researchers drew on information gleaned during the advisory group sessions, those extensive summaries, and additional research to produce the series of briefs that comprise this resource guide. Each focus area section includes:
• A policy brief that succinctly defines the issue, considers the policy challenges and reviews the menu of legislative, programmatic, and other opportunities available to policymakers based on previously enacted successful policies
• A brief on approaches to data collection and analysis that advises policymakers on strategies to build research that is focused on the most effective interventions and that addresses how to emulate successful programs and how to implement experimental research designs for new programs
• A case study brief highlighting a successful program, intervention, initiative, or state law designed to address a particular negative outcome, often within a specific community, that has been championed by state policy-makers or others