This step is a building block for any remote MHPSS programming and ensures remote activities are intentionally designed; reflect contextual realities; and address the needs on the ground. To anticipate a need for remote MHPSS programming is to consider historical and current trends as well as likelihood of events that may necessitate remote modalities (e.g., public health crises resulting in movement restrictions, inaccessibility due to geographic remoteness or security risks, barriers to access to in-person services by clients/beneficiaries, etc.). To assess is to systematically collect and analyze data on the country background and context; existing government or global guidelines, infrastructure and resources, as well as needs and barriers to remote programming. To plan is to use the data collected from the assessment to make evidence-based decisions about remote MHPSS programming and line up the necessary resources for implementation. These processes should be participatory and include the community members and beneficiaries intended to be served by MHPSS programming.
Anticipating a need for remote MHPSS programming, understanding the need through an assessment, and planning for it reduce the surprise element and enable teams to effectively mobilize the necessary resources when the need arises.
This step will ideally take place during initial program design phase, with assessments and plans for MHPSS programming revisited and updated throughout program implementation.
MHPSS management and/or lead focal points, supported by M&E, in collaboration with coordination mechanisms and other MHPSS actors.
The following sections provide specific guidance on how to anticipate, assess and plan for remote MHPSS programming.
1.1 Anticipate the Need for Remote MHPSS Programming
In the design phase/program development of MHPSS programming, it should be anticipated that there may be a need, at some stage during the project, for remote programming and services. It is advised for MHPSS leads to conduct initial brainstorming and/or workshops to develop an initial and basic framework to include potential scenarios that would require remote programming or service provision. This initial brainstorming can inform the development of the assessment.
1.2 Conduct an Assessment to Inform Adaptation to Remote MHPSS Programming
Information from an assessment is needed to make evidence-based decisions about remote MHPSS program planning and design person-centered approaches. An assessment can help identify:
- Barriers and opportunities to providing or accessing face-to-face MHPSS services or capacity-building efforts.
Existing national guidelines and efforts that support or prevent remote MHPSS service delivery.
- Knowledge, attitudes, perceptions and needs of clients, community members and service providers regarding remote MHPSS programming and their level of comfort working with remote technologies.
- Actors currently working on mental health at the national, regional and community level that need to be engaged to transition to remote MHPSS programming.
- Capacity building needs of staff, service providers and partners to facilitate effective transition to remote MHPSS programming.
- Available and needed resources at the organizational, community and national level to support the transition.
The assessment should include the following elements:
1.3 Develop Contingency Plans for Transitioning to Remote MHPSS programming
A number of expected and unexpected circumstances may necessitate a full or partial transition to remote MHPSS programming. Contingency planning enables teams to anticipate and put in place mitigation measures and resources before disruptions to programming and activities occur. In the context of MHPSS programming, contingency planning may include:
- Identifying scenarios that may disrupt face-to-face service delivery and overall programming (e.g., epidemics/pandemics, strikes, post-election violence, natural disasters, etc.).
- Assessing the likelihood and impact of each scenario (e.g., closure or destruction of health facilities, loss of clients’ records and contact details, disruptions in referral pathways, disruptions in psychotropic medication supply chain, etc.).
- Planning a response for each scenario (e.g., having a second copy of the contact details of clients saved in a safe place, mapping of areas/affected population without access to in person MHPSS services, information sharing and coordination with partners, deploying trained response teams for remote service delivery, etc.).
Refer to Appendix B for a country-level contingency planning template, and the Resources List at the end of this section for additional contingency planning guidance.
Key considerations in anticipating, assessing and planning for remote MHPSS programming