Mental health and crisis counselors say telehealth should stay even after pandemic ends

Posted at 12:24 PM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-04 18:55:45-04

CLEVELAND — After emergency actions relaxed governing how mental health, addiction and crisis counselors can access their patients, those counselors say clients and patients would benefit from the changes becoming permanent.

“It’s been a radical shift in terms of how we interface with our patients and how our patients interface with us,” said Recovery Resources Chief Clinical Officer Jason Joyce.

Since March 9, healthcare providers have been allowed to use telemedicine to reach clients, allowing more people to be served while limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is a regulatory change being offered by the Ohio Department of Medicaid to help reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) for patients, their families, and the health care workforce. In addition to increasing access to care, these rules also seek to reduce pressure on Ohio hospitals,” says a post on the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities website.

“That allows us to bill services that weren’t previously billable over the phone and over video,” said Joyce. “We’ve done over 4,000 Telehealth visits since this started. Prior to that, the number was zero.”

The better number might be the 10% decrease in Recovery Resources clients missing appointments. Joyce says it seems that there’s a better chance clients come to counseling when it’s over a video conference.

“What we’re finding is that many of those individual are actually responding better to [video conference appointments] than they did to the in-person group,” said The LCADA Way President Thomas Stuber.

He says younger clients seem to be more engaged more quickly with the video meetings and video group sessions. Stuber says getting clients into a treatment routine quickly means they have a better chance of that treatment being successful.

“Counselors always believed they had to see the person and be face-to-face to be effective,” said Stuber. “I don’t think that myth is there anymore.”

Both organizations say their work during the outbreak shows they need to keep doing Telehealth even after the coronavirus is less of a threat.

But that depends on the state of Ohio.

The success so far is largely due to the quickly-relaxed regulations. Governor DeWine’s spokesperson tells News 5 those changes are temporary and just for the duration of the emergency. The changes would have to go through the normal, sometimes-lengthy legislative process to become permanent.

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