COVID-19 Web Panel: Addressing Supports for Substance Use, Violence, and Mental Health among Families

April 17, 2020

Panelists: Apryl Alexander, PhD; Dhara T. Meghani, PhD; Shelly Weizman, JD

 The Coronavirus has forced many families to make significant changes in their daily lives, limiting access to important resources that strengthen family functioning and well-being. Parental substance use, violence, and mental health are all improved with strong social support mechanisms — but how do we stay socially connected while physically distant? For instance, how can groups like Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous adapt? How can victims of domestic violence escape? How will parents with internal struggles receive needed mental health treatments? With limited access to conventional ways of staying socially connected and supported, families may find coping with stress (to which Coronavirus has undoubtedly added to) more difficult, and we are likely to see rises in rates of child maltreatment, parent substance abuse, and mental health issues as a result.

This panel will discuss innovative ways to strengthen social support mechanisms that permeate family functioning in multiple domains. In particular, we seek to consider how policymakers can leverage existing resources to aid families in crises that extend beyond infectious disease.   


Panelist Bios:


Apryl Alexander, PhD

Apryl Alexander is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver. She also serves as a co-director for the Denver Forensic Institute for Research, Service, and Training (Denver FIRST). Dr. Alexander’s research and clinical work centers around violence and victimization, human sexuality, and trauma-informed and culturally informed practice.

Dhara T. Meghani, PhD

Dhara Meghani is a licensed psychologist in California and an Assistant Professor in the Clinical Psychology PsyD Program at the University of San Francisco. Her clinical expertise and research concern the promotion of perinatal, infant, and early childhood mental health using brief and solution-focused interventions. She is the founder of Parentline, a telehealth service that provides psychological support and developmental guidance to parents of children birth to three years of age. Dr. Meghani was previously on faculty at the Erikson Institute in Chicago, IL, where she also worked for Fussy Baby Network, a program serving parents of infants with regulatory and developmental challenges. From 2011 – 2013, she directed a federally funded initiative awarded through the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program that implemented more mental health training in home visiting programs across Illinois.

Shelly Weizman, JD

Shelly Weizman is the Associate Director of the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center. She works on a project portfolio focused on the opioid crisis, public health approaches to drug policies and how law can promote access to treatment and support recovery.  Before joining Georgetown, Ms. Weizman served as the Assistant Secretary for Mental Hygiene in the Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York where she oversaw policy and operations related to addiction, mental health and developmental disabilities. She began her legal career as a civil rights attorney at MFY Legal Services, a not-for-profit legal services organization in New York City. She is also a person in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder, celebrating more than 22 years of recovery.