MADISON, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) - The need for mental healthcare doesn’t stop with a pandemic. It can actually grow.
Wisconsin providers are working to make sure people get the help they need over the phone, via video conference, or in person, if that’s the only option.
As storefronts and businesses are closed, Moontree Psychotherapy Center in downtown Madison is still welcoming some clients. Healthcare visits are exempt from the governor’s Safer At Home order, so they could stay fully open. Instead, they’re just trying to migrate their clients online. Hundreds of people rely on the dozen or so therapists and counselors there, just like most clinics across the country.
Libby Reeder is a psychotherapist at Moontree. She said although most providers and clients there have switched to telehealth services, that in and of itself can cause problems. “Typically it’s not covered by insurance,” Reeder said. Under normal circumstances, e-medicine visits aren’t treated the same way as in-person appointments.
That seems to be changing. Some insurance providers are making exceptions to their policies to allow for telemedicine mental health services during the COVID-19 outbreak.
For some people who rely on regular mental health care, access and ease are issues too. “Unfortunately there are some people also who don’t have access to computers and telephones,” Reeder said. “Some of the elderly clients … it’s scary for them sometimes to access technology they haven’t used before.” Reeder said some of those clients tried the teleconference appointments and switched to just plain phone call sessions.
For those with mental illnesses that cause symptoms like paranoia, visits over the phone or computer just aren’t an option. “There’s a few clients who are too paranoid or afraid to use the phone, much less video. So there’s another therapist who’s gonna see that client.” Those providers are going in to help that small number of patients, cleaning between visits, and keeping social distance.
Providers are deciding for themselves how best to help their clients during this crisis. “It depends on what the individual circumstance is,” Reeder said.
Reeder said this is a time where people may need mental health care more than normal, but fewer are asking for it. Their referrals have dropped drastically over the last two weeks. She worries people aren’t reaching out because they don’t think they can get care with all these closures and changes.
Reeder said for now, clients have been okay dealing with the changes. But it’s only been about 10 days. She’s more concerned about the weeks and maybe months ahead. She said the coronavirus crisis could end up causing a mental health crisis.
There are providers available all over Wisconsin, many working via telehealth methods.
If you feel like you need to talk to someone, click here to find a provider in your area.