Despite the unprecedented wave of research and publications sparked by the recent pandemic, only few studies have investigated the impact of COVID-19 on the Italian community-based system of mental health care. We aimed to summarize the available evidence from the literature also considering what we have learned from our daily clinical practice. As hospital care was restricted by COVID-19, although reducing their opening hours and activities, Community Mental Health Centers promoted continuity of care for at-risk populations, supporting them to cope with loneliness and hopelessness during quarantine and self-isolation. Ensuring continuity of care also remotely, via teleconsultation, lowered the risk of psychopathological decompensation and consequent need of hospitalization for mental health patients, with satisfaction expressed both by patients and mental health workers. Considering what we have learned from the pandemic, the organization and the activity of the Italian community-based system of mental health care would need to be implemented through 1) the promotion of a "territorial epidemiology" that makes mental health needs visible in terms of health care workers involved, 2) the increase of mental health resources in line with the other European high-income countries, 3) the formalization of structured initiatives of primary care and mental health cooperation, 4) the creation of youth mental health services following a multidimensional and multidisciplinary approach and encouraging family participation, 5) the promotion of day centers, to build competence and self-identity within a more participatory life, and programs geared to employment as valid models of recovery-oriented rehabilitation.
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