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How to Approach Adolescents With Behavioral Health and Substance Misuse Needs

Substance use, including alcohol and illicit drugs, has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people who already struggled with substance use have faced social isolation, financial distress, limited healthcare access, and anxiety symptoms. This can increase their use of drugs or alcohol as a way to cope.

Addressing substance misuse in adolescents

Unfortunately, this trend has not only affected adults, but adolescents. Research published by Boston University found that, among adolescents who consumed drugs or alcohol, the use of alcohol and cannabis increased significantly after social distancing measures were implemented.

When it comes to addressing substance use among adolescents, many clinicians have taken an approach known as “screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT)”. The SBIRT approach includes:

Screening the individual adolescent with validated surveys
Brief, patient-centered intervention, mainly with motivational interviewing
Referring the individual to behavioral treatment for more severe symptoms

Motivational interviewing is a type of counseling that helps individuals make necessary, healthy changes to their behavior. This method does not try to force clients to change or tell them specifically what to do. Instead, the counselor converses with their client to guide them through their feelings and consider how they may need to change. This method was originally developed for individuals struggling with alcohol problems, but may help others who need to make changes in their lives and struggle to do so.

What new research shows

The SBIRT approach has had a positive effect in the short term, but there’s been a lack of research on its longer-term effects. Now, a team of researchers report in Pediatrics that 185 adolescents who received SBIRT by a pediatrician or behavioral clinician showed better outcomes compared to 104 adolescents randomized to receive usual care.

Adolescents in the “usual care” group were assigned to pediatricians who had access to EHR screening tools but did not have formal SBIRT training.

The benefits included:

Lower risk of depression after one year and three years
Lower risk of being diagnosed with substance use three years later
Fewer emergency department visits

These findings are important because adolescents with co-occurring substance use and mood symptoms are more likely to develop other comorbidities. They may use more health resources, such as emergency departments, and their substance use may escalate. Evidence-based interventions can help reduce health costs as well as improve quality of life.

In a blog post about this study, the American Academy of Pediatrics noted that the study was limited because it was conducted in a health system that provides behavioral health, and the participants were insured. Most pediatric primary-care practices lack behavioral health providers. Many young people with substance use disorder may be uninsured or underinsured, which can make it more difficult for these clients to have access to SBIRT and its benefits. Because of these complicating factors, additional studies of the use of SBIRT in other settings are still needed.

Even after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, it is likely that the behavioral health consequences will persist for months and even years afterward. As a behavioral health provider, you need the right tools to serve your clients and stay efficient. That’s why BestNotes EHR solutions offer many customization options to help you work more effectively, improve profitability, and get the results you and your clients want. Contact us today to learn more or schedule a demo!

date:  Jan 20, 2021
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Drug Decriminalization, Rising Overdose Deaths, and Other Addiction-Related News in Oregon

In November 2020, Oregon residents approved a measure to decriminalize all drugs. However, this was not the only drug and addiction-related story from Oregon. Here are the major substance use and addiction stories out of the state.

Oregon’s Drug Decriminalization Started in Portugal

Fifty-eight percent of Oregon voters in November 2020 approved Measure 110, which will decriminalize all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Under the law, which will take effect on February 1, 2021, possession of controlled substances would be reclassified from a misdemeanor to a violation with a $100 fine. The measure will also move millions in marijuana tax revenue to support addiction recovery.

Oregon’s new approach aims to focus on diversion and harm reduction for drug use, saving the punitive measures for drug trafficking. This was based on Portugal’s model, which decriminalized hard drugs in 2001. Individuals caught using drugs recreationally are sent to a commission of health and legal experts who evaluate the person and may refer them to voluntary treatment. These changes helped reduce drug-related fatalities, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) reported.

Lane County, Oregon Sheriff’s Office Receives Grant for Inmate Substance Abuse Treatment

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon has received a three-year Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Use Site-based Program grant, distributed through the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The office plans to use these funds for the Lane County Jail Substance Abuse and Transition Program.

This program will provide medication-assisted treatment to 20 inmates per month, and education and counseling to another 100 inmates. The program especially targets those individuals with at least two substance use-related jail bookings annually. This may help “to increase their chances of sobriety and reduce their chances of returning to jail,” said Lane County Sheriff Cliff Harrold.

Overdose Fatalities Increase in Oregon

Following similar trends across the country, Oregon saw a nearly 40-percent increase in overdose fatalities in 2020. While most of these deaths involve opioids, other deaths involved methamphetamines and the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Health authorities note that many individuals who already struggle with substance misuse are struggling with social, financial, and health disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic

To try to reduce overdose deaths, the state is distributing naloxone and using real-time surveillance data to make immediate responses to sudden death increases. The state is also providing methadone to patients through opioid treatment providers.

Grants Pass, Oregon Initiative Aims to Help With Addiction

Grants Pass, Oregon Lieutenant Dennis Ward has launched a new initiative, called “A New Way Home,” that aims to take on substance misuse, addiction, and drug-related fatalities. The initiative is based partly on a program started in Massachusetts called Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PARRI).

The nonprofit Options for Southern Oregon will work with the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety on the new initiative. Under this program, individuals who struggle with addiction and are in possession of a controlled substance are invited to come to the police department and ask for help. They can do so without the fear of getting arrested.

Legislative changes, increased substance misuse, and the rising demand for behavioral health services could create major challenges for addiction treatment providers in Oregon. Make sure your practice is prepared for the demands with the right clinical and business tools. BestNotes EHR software was designed with you in mind, tailored specifically for the needs of behavioral health practices. Contact us today to schedule a free demo or ask questions about our solutions.

date:  Jan 14, 2021
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New Bill for Audio-Only Telemedicine Could Further Encourage Telehealth Growth

U.S. Reps. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) and Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) in December introduced the Permanency for Audio-Only Telehealth Act to permanently expand Medicare coverage for audio-only telehealth visits.

Until telehealth restrictions were relaxed during the COVID-19 public health emergency, it was difficult or even impossible for behavioral health clinicians to conduct telephone-only visits. Protecting client privacy could be tricky, and getting reimbursed for the telehealth visit was often in question.

Under the new bill, Medicare would reimburse providers for audio-only behavioral health evaluation and management services after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended and other emergency measures for telehealth expire. Geographic restrictions of Medicare also would be removed, so that a Medicare patient’s home could be designated as a delivery site for certain telehealth services.

This bill is one of several telehealth bills that have been introduced in Congress since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Opponents of this bill argue that phone calls cannot properly establish a doctor-patient relationship and should only be allowed after an in-person exam. However, groups like the American Psychological Association (APA) have voiced support for this latest bill, saying it can improve health equity for underserved populations. You can read more about the bill’s supporters in a press release issued by Smith’s team.

The Permanency for Audio-Only Telehealth Act, if passed, would have several potential advantages for both behavioral health providers and clients. These include:

Better reimbursement options for behavioral health providers in a period of financial difficulty for many practices
Making permanent many of the benefits of telehealth that providers have enjoyed under emergency provisions
Increased access to behavioral health services for low-income clients who may lack the technology necessary for video telehealth visits
Expanded care options for older clients who may be unable to use full-service telehealth technology or make in-person visits
Behavioral health access for individuals in rural areas who may not have reliable access to broadband

This last advantage could be especially important. Farmers and other workers in rural areas are at high risk of mental illness and even suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New research shows that farmers have benefited significantly from the recent growth of telehealth. Virtual behavioral health services have given rural workers better access to care that may otherwise be located too far away. It can also help reduce the stigma associated with mental healthcare in remote communities.

New research shows that mental health clinicians are pleased with telehealth services, as well. the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, a group of more than 1,000 health organizations, technology firms, and nonprofits, recently published a survey of more than 1,500 providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, psychologists, and social workers. Overall, 60 percent of clinicians reported that telehealth has improved patient health and 55 percent reported that telehealth has improved their satisfaction with their work.

Are you adding or expanding telehealth options at your behavioral health practice? You need an EHR solution that will help meet your client, staff, and financial needs while balancing onsite and virtual care. Fortunately, adopting behavioral telehealth doesn’t have to be complicated. BestNotes EHR solutions were developed specifically for behavioral health and addiction treatment providers to help you stay compliant and profitable. Contact BestNotes today to learn more.

date:  Jan 07, 2021
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Fatal Overdose Increases, Finding Psychiatric Beds, and More Ohio Behavioral Health News

States across the U.S. are seeing increased behavioral health needs and rising drug use as Americans struggle with the mental-health impact of social isolation, financial struggles, and other anxieties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest behavioral health stories out of Ohio show how this state has been affected, and how it is responding.

Ohio Seeing Increase in Drug Overdose Fatalities

In May 2020, 548 Ohioans died of drug overdoses, the most in a single month in at least 14 years. Preliminary figures from the Ohio Department of Health suggest that overdose deaths in June and July also set monthly record highs of 481 and 442 fatalities, respectively.

Harm Reduction Ohio, a Granville-based nonprofit agency that is reportedly the state’s largest naloxone distributor, released the findings. The group reports that the increased deaths were 20-percent higher in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Most of the deaths occurred in rural counties, often in poorer regions of the state, including southern and southeastern Ohio.

Ohio Governor Announces $74 Million to Fight Opioids

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Recovery Ohio Director Alisha Nelson, and Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Director Lori Criss recently announced that $76,534,000 in grants will go to new strategic efforts against drug addiction. The grants are a part of Ohio’s share of $96 million in federal State Opioid Response (SOR) 2.0 funding.

Ohio’s SOR 2.0 project aims to boost the treatment and recovery services available to state residents. Grants will support projects such as opioid treatment programs for new or expecting mothers, recovery housing, and expanded access to naloxone.

New Service in Ohio Matches Patients With Psychiatric Beds

The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services is gradually launching a new online psychiatric bed registry meant to match behavioral health patients to inpatient psychiatric facilities with available beds. This tool, called Behavioral Health Connection or B-Con, is meant to be used by emergency departments, psychiatrists, and other providers.

This tool provides two-way communication, data analytics, and decision-support resources, and is meant to get patients with behavioral health needs to the appropriate services faster. The number of state hospital beds throughout the country has fallen since 1955, but there is still a high number of emergency room visits for mental health-related issues.

“We believe this registry will improve patient care, ease overcrowding in emergency rooms, and expedite the process of connecting patients with psychiatric hospitals and hospital psychiatric units,” said Dr. Justin Trevino, OhioMHAS Medical Director.

House, Senate Pass Healthcare Parity Bill

The Ohio Senate and House of Representatives have passed amendments to Senate Bill 284 that now include Senate Bill 254, which would prohibit insurers from covering mental illnesses in a more restrictive way than physical illnesses. Senate Bill 254 is a bipartisan effort sponsored by State Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green), and State Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta).

An increased demand for mental health and addiction treatment services in Ohio has placed enormous pressure on behavioral health providers. Make sure you have an EHR designed specifically for your needs, from serving your clients to staying compliant to increasing your profitability. Let BestNotes help you streamline your workflow to increase your efficiency and success! Contact us today to learn more about our solutions.

date:  Dec 30, 2020
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How Behavioral Health Providers Can Support Families’ Emotional Health During COVID-19

Between social isolation, financial difficulties, anxieties about the virus, and overall disruptions to normal life, the varying responses to the COVID-19 public health emergency have taken a significant toll on families. Behavioral health providers are uniquely positioned to help individuals and families recover from the mental health impact.

Here’s how behavioral health providers can support families and children during a difficult time


1. Look for evidence-based guidance.

When it comes to supporting families during difficult times, guidance from trusted sources can help point behavioral health providers in the right direction. Look for behavioral health-related trade and advocacy associations in your state and communities, such as the National Council for Behavioral Health, and any best practices or guidance they have issued.

You can also consider guidance for other specialties. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) earlier this year issued guidance for evaluating and supporting children, adolescents, and families struggling with behavioral health during COVID-19. This includes watching for reactions to stress, such as sleep and feeding disruptions, withdrawing, or expressions of fearfulness. Providers should also be aware of social health factors, such as food or housing insecurity.

2. Provide education to parents

Behavioral health providers also can support families by providing information and education, which may or may not be based on the previously mentioned guidance. Behavioral health providers can help parents and guardians identify signs of anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns in their children of all ages. They can also advise families on appropriate stress management and self-care.

3. Connect behavioral health clients to community resources

Besides providing care and education, behavioral health providers can help direct clients and their families to additional, appropriate resources. This may include connecting clients to services that provide financial, housing, or food assistance, or physical healthcare. Get familiar with state and local resources that can provide additional support to your clients and their children and families.

4. Expand your treatment options, clinical knowledge, and services

As a behavioral health provider, you may want to consider expanding your training and education to be able to offer additional types of therapy to clients and families in need. For example, functional family therapy (FFT) is a type of short-term intervention that uses the whole family to help address adolescent behavior problems. Other options include virtual continuing education opportunities and online training sessions that may be available to you.

Even if you do not necessarily expand your current services, you may want to look at new ways to deliver them. For example, telehealth can help you provide more flexible hours, allowing you and your clients to attend therapy sessions from anywhere within your state. This can also help reduce no-shows and limit your and your clients’ potential exposure to illness. Providing online assessments can also help clients and their families get the type of therapy they need in a way that may feel less intimidating.

Challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting increased demand for services have created many opportunities for behavioral health and addiction treatment providers. The right clinical tools are critical for helping you and your staff continue to serve clients and their families during a difficult time. BestNotes EHR solutions offer easy implementation and thorough technical support, with features such as telehealth and online assessments so you can continue to work at your best. Contact us to learn more.

date:  Dec 24, 2020
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