With pandemic-related anxiety, stress and uncertainty at an all-time high, many people may be finding themselves seeking out mental health services. The good news for St. Charles Parish residents is that free help is only a call away.
Access Health Louisiana, which operates two local community clinics, has recently expanded its behavioral health services to include telemedicine visits. AHL Director of Outreach and Development Chenier Reynolds-Montz said using telemedicine for individual and even group therapy sessions has yielded positive feedback from patients.
“Patients are loving it because they get to meet other people who are dealing with things like them such as isolation, stress of having kids at home, depression, anxiety, loss of job and loved ones,” she said of group therapy.
Jan Kasofsky, vice president of behavioral health and human services for AHL, said a team of psychologists, psychiatrists and LCSWs are available to help patients who may be experiencing a variety of behavioral health issues, including but not limited to PTSD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, chronic tension, panic attacks and phobias.
“This is really a tough time for everyone,” she said. “If you look around and think everyone else has it together, don’t be fooled. There’s a lot to be anxious about. A lot of people are afraid to get mental health help but going to see a therapist can help you understand what your goal is and how to be ok with not knowing answers. The type of therapy we’re talking about is kind of like coaching.”
Kasofsky said AHL’s offerings are unique.
“One of the things I think is really underappreciated with Access Health is we are an integrated clinic,” she said. “We have primary care and behavioral health. Integrated care is really one of my favorite things to promote, because we all know our behavioral health can impact our overall health.”
While AHL was conducting some telemedicine therapy sessions prior to the pandemic, Kasofsky said the need for continuity of services when social distancing and business closure mandates came down pushed the organization to expand remote services quickly.
“We moved almost immediately to all our mental health services being virtual,” Kasofsky said. “We didn’t skip a beat.”
Kasofsky said AHL mental health providers are helping more people than ever before, due in part to the ease new patients feel in receiving services remotely.
“A lot of people feel more comfortable talking to someone over the screen,” she said.
Telemedicine appointments also have other benefits.
“We’ve seen a big decline in no-shows because it’s so much more convenient,” Kasofsky said, adding there are no transportation or child-care barriers when people can video chat or call their provider versus having to meet in person. “People have been really satisfied with the quality of interaction.”
With such positive feedback from clients and therapists alike, Kasofsky said she forecasts the expansion of more telemedicine offerings in the future.
“Post-pandemic I’m thinking each therapist will have one day a week in the office with patients, but doing mostly virtual,” she said. “We’re really looking to expand it – especially family therapy.”
Another recent expansion of AHL behavioral services is free access for patients and the community to the myStrength mobile app, a digital behavioral health tool to improve and sustain emotional health and well-being.
The app program focuses on multiple challenges, such as depression, anxiety, stress, substance abuse, chronic pain and insomnia. It adjusts with every interaction, capturing personal preferences and goals, current emotional and motivational states and ongoing life events.
Kasofsky said the app is filled with hundreds of wellness resources, self-help tools, online health trackers, personalized activities and more. It can be accessed through a desktop computer, tablet or mobile device.
“One of the things I really like about it is it can give support to people in between appointments,” she said, adding the app is available to the community and not just AHL patients.
For more information on any Access Health Louisiana services, or more details on the myStrength app, visit www.accesshealthla.org.