New York focusing on mental wellness for residents trying to cope with coronavirus outbreak

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- The New York State Department of Mental Health (OMH) has given state-contracted mental health providers authorization to provide telehealth to their clients during the COVID-19 outbreak. The goal is to maintain continuity of care- an important aspect of mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, telehealth had been gaining in popularity. Because it’s relatively new there is not much research available that addresses the long-term effectiveness of telepsychiatry or telepsychology but mental health organizations including the American Psychiatric Association agree that telehealth can be beneficial for patients.

The OMH has made helping mental health professionals reach clients through telehealth a priority by making funds available to provide the service, either by telephone or video call. They’ve also relaxed regulations regarding verbal consent and have postponed audits.

The success of patient continuation of care plans has a wide range. An OMH representative said some providers have been able to reach 90% of their patients while others have been able to reach 50% in a webinar Thursday.

Close to 6,000 mental health professionals signed up to assist with New York’s COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline but for those who have never spoken with a therapist, the idea of telehealth could be intimidating. For a successful telepsychiatry call or video chat www.yourhealthinmind.org suggests the following:

  • Make the room as quiet as possible – turn off radios and TVs.
  • If you have young children, arrange care in advance so you don’t get interrupted.
  • Turn off your mobile phone.
  • Test the connection and software before your first consultation.
  • Try to make sure your face is well-lit.
  • Don’t sit directly in front of a window, because it can make it hard to see your face.
  • If you have someone supporting you, check that the webcam includes them in the shot.
  • There might be some delay between one person speaking and the other person hearing it. Wait for the other person to finish speaking before you start.
  • Avoid using the internet for other things at the same time (for example streaming TV, downloading movies or playing games).

To reach a mental health professional through New York’s COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline call 1-844-863-9314.

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