Tallahassee, Fla.— The past few months have brought unprecedented challenges and changes in response to the novel coronavirus, but in this time of uncertainty, Florida Behavioral Health Association (FBHA) notes a powerful behavior shift among its  provider members – a dramatic uptick in telehealth visits with patients, cementing remote services as a welcome option for Floridians to continue prioritizing their mental health and well-being during this time. 

“We are strongly encouraging fellow Floridians to connect with their behavioral health provider during these times and to utilize the telehealth and remote services offered by so many providers,” said FBHA President and CEO Melanie Brown-Woofter. “May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we are inspired to see that behavioral health has emerged as a prominent topic of conversation statewide, especially as we all feel the broad impacts of COVID-19 on our communities, not only physically but also emotionally. This health crisis demanded a swift and decisive shift to telehealth services, ensuring seamless continuity of care and increased access for patients during this time of crisis, and our provider members have risen to the challenge.”

Shortly after the Coronavirus epidemic began, Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare began offering Telehealth services for its clients. Online appointments are available through Zoom, including technical help for those unfamiliar with the service. Online sessions are offered for all medication management, individual and group therapy appointments. In addition, Starting Point provides Telehealth offices on site for those who do not have access to a computer or smartphone. 

“We want to reassure our clients that Starting Point is here for them whenever they need us,” said Dr. Laureen Pagel, CEO of Starting Point. “We have 24/7 crisis assistance available for both adults and youth that allows them to speak to a mental health counselor around the clock.”

The Starting Point crisis lines are 904.580.0529 for children and adolescents, and 904.206.1756 for adults.

During the last three months, FBHA provider members have seen the use of telehealth enable  patients to be seen more frequently by their mental health and substance abuse provider, and with decreased wait times for services, resulting in  increased patient and family engagement. Telehealth is easy to use, as patients can log on from the comfort of their home without juggling other commitments or responsibilities that may have previously resulted in a no-show or appointment cancellation. Telehealth also largely eliminates obstacles to care for patients, such as the lack of access to transportation, financial issues and time restrictions. 

Recently, about 92 percent of FBHA’s members surveyed reported that telehealth has improved services for patients, and almost 70 percent have seen a decrease in wait times for patients receiving services. Additionally, about 60 percent of providers surveyed have seen an increase in patient engagement and participation from patients while using telehealth services. 

“As we continue to combat COVID-19 and begin navigating our new normal, many issues impact our mental and emotional well-being – whether it’s a need for a community and connection while in isolation, fear surrounding the illness itself, or anxiety from a loss of employment and financial strain,” said Brown-Woofter. “Telehealth offers an important outlet for our provider members and their patients to connect and maintain the critical conversation around behavioral health.”

Floridians are resilient and will get through this together. FBHA’s mental health and substance abuse treatment partners are available and fully operational. For more information about available resources, please visit https://www.floridabha.org/covid-19/

About FBHA

FBHA is the state’s largest trade association representing community mental health and substance use treatment providers. The group is committed to bringing renewed attention and awareness to mental health and substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery in Florida. For more information, please visit www.floridabha.org

About Starting Point

Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare provides mental health and substance abuse treatment services to children, teens and adults in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia. The non-profit agency serves more than 2,800 individuals each year and has been serving the region for more than 25 years. Starting Point is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). For more information, visit spbh.org.

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