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Podcast: The COVID-19 Crisis and Behavioral Health

     

The public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on virtually all facets of our daily lives, especially health care. While the ultimate effects of COVID-19 on both individuals and populations are unclear, we know we will have to navigate the impact of the pandemic on the behavioral health system. The rates of depression, suicide, and substance use are expected to surge as communities continue to struggle with COVID-19 cases—along with the fear, isolation, children falling behind in education and unemployment that comes with the pandemic. It is essential that policymakers ensure that communities have continued access to mental health and substance use disorder services not only during, but also in the aftermath of this pandemic.

I recently sat down with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials’ (ASTHO) Public Health Review podcast to talk about the challenges facing public health officials today, especially as they relate to mental health. Among the immediate changes to mental health brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic are a dramatic increase in the use of telepsychiatry, particularly after a loosening of restrictions on telehealth services by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Respondents to a recent survey of APA members on the use of telepsychiatry during the pandemic reported treating upwards of 75% of their patients with telepsychiatry, whether digitally or over the phone. Respondents also reported no-show rates have reduced dramatically with telehealth. Research shows that keeping the first appointment leads to keeping subsequent ones, a continuation of therapy overall, etc. Telehealth also increases medication compliance, which leads to fewer ER visits, fewer inpatient admissions, etc.

This pandemic has laid the limitations of the health care system bare and presented a unique opportunity to really decide what the future of American health care will look like.

I encourage you to listen to the full episode of Public Health Review, which includes Joe Parks, M.D., Medical Director and Vice President of Practice improvement, National Council for Behavioral Health and Anne Zink, M.D., FACEP, Chief Medical Officer, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services using the player below.

     

Post by Saul Levin M.D., M.P.A.

Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., FRCP-E, is APA's CEO and Medical Director. Read Dr. Levin's full biography

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