The pandemic has turned the world upside down. All of a sudden, things just shut down. Everyone was home, and it seemed surreal.
“Since Covid, mental health became a top priority and one of the biggest pandemic issues we will face in 2021,” said Deborah Drumm, the founder of Advanced Behavior Counseling of Northern New Jersey. “Everyone has had difficulty with being forced to stay at home. The exception is my patients that suffer with severe anxiety issues that may force them to be reclusive, and they are delighted with ‘virtual sessions’ that allow them to remain home and be treated.”
Drumm hopes more insurance companies will cover mental health services without obstacles that interfere with service. In Ohio, she said, “all psychotropic medications are covered without any interference from insurance companies. We are bogged down with time-consuming prior authorizations for medication coverage that often is denied.”
Drumm said her services are have tripled with inquiries for psychiatric help.
“I think the only thing to say about isolation, is to help people focus on what they can control, take advantage of the time to learn a new skill or hobby, reach out to neighbors and family members in a new way, new communication until we can be physically together,” she said.
Doreen Rasp is a longtime staff member at Advanced Behavioral Counseling. “Prior to the pandemic I never even considered virtual visits,” she said. “I had always thought it would be a great option if, in the future, I wanted to move somewhere warmer, but still be able to maintain my practice, but just wasn’t sure how it would work-now I can see how essentially straight forward it is.”
Rasp calls 2020 a “litmus test.”
“The stressors that became flared as well the new issues that arose due to the pandemic, quarantining and the monotony and isolation that followed led to individuals utilizing what I call their ‘toolbox,’ in an effort to cope, or their existing issues magnified and worsened due to not having healthy coping mechanisms,” she said. “If we had to find a silver lining, 2020 allowed those without a toolbox to pursue help.”
Drumm said the recent addition of two nurse practitioners has helped. “We are thrilled to have Sandra Winters and Carissa Best available to help in addition with or without psychotropic medications,” she said.
Best said she views tele-psychiatry as not a challenge but as an opportunity. “Many of my patients are elderly and sometimes encounter barriers when seeking care,” she said. “I have found that tele-psychiatry is a viable alternative which affords my patients the individualized and competent care they have come to appreciate from the comfort of their homes or jobs. By reducing barriers to mental health care, we can provide effective, equitable mental health services for adults who may have difficulty accessing care for depression, anxiety, or difficult life challenges.”
Rasp said that going forward she would like to see Advanced Behavioral Counseling continue to collaborate with local therapists and nutritionists.
“I’d like to see this not only through pharmacology but also through all their individualized necessities to build their ‘toolboxes,’” she said.