Floridians Prioritize Use of Telehealth for Behavioral Health Support
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/.
eCare from SMA Telehealth services removes barriers that may prevent you from receiving convenient, accessible, high quality care where you are. It ensures that you can receive the care you need, even when individuals are not near the SMA Care Team or if the care they seek is across the region. It allows clients to access care at their preferred location — in remote areas, at home, in a clinic or anywhere they may need it, through their mobile or digital device.
This technology has the potential to improve quality of outpatient care to our current clients and make it accessible to more. For more information, please email email@example.com or call 800-539-4228.
Tips for Working from Home
Communication Is Key
- Stay in touch with your boss/co-workers
- Utilize digital to maintain successful communication
Tips for Video Chatting
- When you’re not talking, have your audio on mute to eliminate your background noise and make it easier for everyone to hear those who are talking and presenting.
- Look presentable. You’re still doing work during work hours, so pretend you’re still physically going by getting dressed every morning just as you would if you were going into the office.
- Make sure you have a good and secure WiFi connection.
Stay on Track
- Set a schedule
- Stay organized
- Maintain normal routine, as if you're working in the office
Food Safety and COVID-19
The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has numerous resources available for industry workers and consumers regarding food safety and COVID-19. For more information, visit their website HERE.
Social Distancing Reminders
Social distancing measures are taken to restrict when and where people can gather to stop or slow the spread of infectious diseases. Social distancing measures include limiting large groups of people coming together, closing buildings and canceling events. Here are some ways to safely do that:
- It is important to stay 6 feet away from others.
- Avoid shopping at peak hours and take advantage of delivery or pick-up services with retailers.
- Cooperate with leadership to change company practices, set up flexible shift plans, have employees telecommute, and cancel any large meetings or conferences.
- Avoid shaking hands as a social greeting.
- Avoid public transit, and don’t travel to places with active outbreaks.
- Avoid crowded places
Older people are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 which may result in increased stress during a crisis.
Fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions.
Things you can do to support yourself:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories and social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
- Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
- If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517)
For more information, visit the CDC website.
SMA is now offering our youth programs virtually! While school is out, youth can stay connected, win prizes, and earn community service hours for participating in a program tailored to them.
These fun and interactive sessions cover topics such as physical activity, healthy eating, ways to deal with stress and peer pressure, how drug use can interfere with living a healthy lifestyle, and more!
Join us for Teen Talk Tuesdays and Thursdays, every Tuesday (grades 6-8) and Thursday (grades 9-12) at 1:00 PM on LifeSize at https://call.lifesizecloud.com/1519674
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Important reminder: Please call before visiting any of our facilities. For general questions about SMA, please contact our Access Center at 800-539-4228.
Take steps to protect yourself
Clean your hands often
- Wash your handsoften with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touchingyour eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact
- Avoid close contactwith people who are sick
- Put distance between yourself and otherpeople if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Take steps to protect others
Stay home if you’re sick
- Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. Learn what to do if you are sick.
Cover coughs and sneezes
- Cover your mouth and nosewith a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Throw used tissuesin the trash.
- Immediately wash your handswith soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Wear a facemask if you are sick
- If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.
- If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.
Clean and disinfect
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
For more information, visit the CDC website.
When we are faced with a crisis, anxiety is the immediate reaction and the antidote for anxiety is always control. Since we can’t control what is going to happen with the COVID-19 pandemic, we turn to what we can control and this is why we see people shopping; they feel as though they are doing their part by stocking up. These people are not selfish or bad people they are just scared and not thinking about their connection to others and their responsibility to their community, otherwise they would not react this way. Unfortunately the impact of social media driven communication is what has escalated the hoarding behavior, and then human instinct takes over due to fear of being without something, and that something in this case is toilet paper.
What people can do to ease their fear and anxiety is to ensure they are getting enough rest and eating a healthy diet, refrain from alcohol and mood altering substances, reduce or eliminate caffeinated drinks, take time for some type of exercise each day and when they feel intense fear and anxiety practice grounding themselves by tricking their brain to think about something else – what are three things you hear, three things you see that are pretty, close your eyes and feel the breeze or sun on your face and take slow deep breaths, and pray. The key is to refocus your thoughts, focus on your senses and relax your mind.
When residents are feeling confined at home due to forced social distancing or self-quarantine, they should make a daily to do list. Making a schedule and sticking to it will more closely resemble a work or school day giving them a sense of normalcy. Now is the perfect time to take care of all of the things that have been put off around the house – clean out that junk drawer, we all have them – go outside and do yard work, give the house a total spring cleaning, or for fun, start that hobby you’ve been interested in but never seem to get to. Most importantly if someone becomes depressed or emotionally distressed call for help, there are people who care and will help you. During these unsure times, SMA Healthcare remains open to continued services that our clients expect and need. If someone needs help they can reach out to our access line 24/7 – 1-800-539-4228.
SMA Healthcare remains committed to providing care to its clients. Knowing the risks and concerns of face-to-face meetings, and to keep in line with social distancing, SMA is extending its offering of eCare services – SMA’s telehealth services, which utilizes easy-to-use technology in order to provide personal care, no matter where you are. If you have questions, contact your SMA rep, call our Access Center (800-539-4228) or send an email to email@example.com.
At SMA Healthcare, the Safety of our Clients and Employees is our uncompromising priority, and we are closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19). We are engaging daily with the Florida Department of Health and other government agencies to ensure that we implement the best policies to protect everyone as the situation evolves. Currently, SMA has not canceled or suspended any services or programs due to the current situation, however, visitation to select facilities has been restricted. If you are planning a visit to an SMA facility, please contact that facility for their current policy regarding visitations.
Of course, if needed, we will quickly announce any adjustments to our procedures or operations through our social media outlets so that you can maintain confidence that SMA is doing all we can to keep you and your family safe. Please check back often for updates.