Preparation meets need: Providing mental health services through telehealth
For almost everyone, the ground is shifting beneath our feet. Everything we were doing in our businesses just 10-14 days ago looks different now. Many businesses are resilient and are adapting. However, many individuals may be struggling. For those with mental health issues and for those whose underlying anxieties have been heightened, mental health treatment is an essential service.
How can our society continue to provide this essential service for mental health while balancing the current risks of physical illness? Telehealth. The media is starting to write stories about it, and some media and influencers may question whether anyone knows how to deliver it with expertise and compliance. I’ve seen references to the medical/mental health community “figuring it out on the fly.” That’s not necessarily true. We all need to work together to reassure the public that this service can be done well, and people can get access to the care they need.
True, for some medical providers, this shift presents great challenges as their organizations scramble technologically, procedurally, and compliance-wise. While the last week has included many long hours for our team at Christian Family Solutions, I can confidently say that we’ve made a smooth transition. We have 100 counselors experienced, trained, and refreshed in telehealth practices and support staff equipped to work at home. Many of our clients are now continuing their treatment via telehealth.
For us, telehealth is not new. We’ve been providing it since 2008. At the end of 2019, when Wisconsin put legislation in place to further define regulations and provide more access to telehealth, we began planning a reintroduction of our capabilities. Then COVID-19 hit, and we found ourselves uniquely prepared to serve. We’re now turning our focus to collaboration in the community and removing barriers so people can access the care they need through telehealth.
Essential teamwork to meet needs
Experts are predicting that this escalating public health crisis will increase the need for mental health services in our communities. Not only are we striving to get the word out about our capabilities; we’re sharing information with other providers on how they can best serve clients in need right now, either through improvement of their own telehealth capabilities, or by collaborating and sharing referrals among all of us providers. The most important objective for providers in all of this: working together in the best interest of clients and patients.
Prior to COVID-19, financial obstacles were the #1 reason people did not seek mental health treatment. We’re concentrating on removing financial barriers for those who may be experiencing hardship at this time.
- During this national emergency, we’re talking with many insurers and they are encouraging video appointments to stop the spread of the virus. They are covering the services, and people need to know this.
- Many insurance companies are waiving client cost share such as copays at this time. Christian Family Solutions is also waiving copays and coinsurance at this time. We will do everything we can to remove financial barriers so people can access the help they need.
- Individuals may choose to pay for video counseling services without using insurance. We’ve reduced our prompt pay rate during this public health emergency.
Get the word out
If you’re reading this article, please consider sharing it with others. Physical clinics and programs may be closed, but some agencies (like ours) are virtually open, taking referrals, and providing essential service in this time of great need. If there is anything groundbreaking or innovative going on, it is the fact that our clinicians are getting better and better at translating in-person techniques to video counseling, providing excellent therapy. For us, video is not an experiment. We are prepared for this moment in history.
Yes, things are changing daily. Ground is shifting. For many people struggling with mental health issues, the risks associated with not receiving treatment are just as great as any physical risks of illness. It’s our job to be the purveyors of calm during uncertain times, and to connect with the people who desperately need mental health services.
Learn more about telehealth from Christian Family Solutions here.
Andrea Semmann is a Certified Telehealth Coordinator and Director of Operations and Telehealth for Christian Family Solutions. She helps the counseling staff connect with individuals, whether face-to-face or through using video conferencing, to increase access for individuals seeking Christian counseling.
ABOUT CHRISTIAN FAMILY SOLUTIONS: based in Germantown, WI, Christian Family Solutions provides outpatient counseling, day treatment and intensive outpatient programs through its 52 clinics in 6 states as well as through telehealth worldwide. CFS blends evidence-based methods and high standards of care with Christian faith-based principles to heal and help individuals facing a wide range of mental health issues. Since 1965, CFS has provided this counseling care along with senior services through assisted living and in-home care. Learn more at ChristianFamilySolutions.org.