South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday May 26, 2020
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May 2020 - Volume 16 - Issue 11

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Floridians Prioritize Use of Telehealth for Behavioral Health Support During COVID-19 Crisis

May 12, 2020 - 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.”
 
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
 
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