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Have Mental Illness and Addiction Rates Increased Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Amid the COVID-19 public health emergency, health experts and law enforcement leaders have seen a rise in mental illness, drug overdoses, and addiction-related behaviors.

Several factors have contributed to a rise in drug and alcohol misuse this year:

Some people have used drugs and alcohol as coping methods to deal with fears and stress surrounding the virus.
Increased social isolation from stay-at-home orders can worsen feelings of anxiety and depression, prompting increased substance misuse and suicidal ideation.
Financial disruptions from business shutdowns and job loss can cause anxiety, leading to excessive drug and alcohol use.
Individuals struggling with addiction may have reduced access to providers or treatment centers due to state and local restrictions on healthcare.

Here are some of the more specific findings so far.

Significant Mental Health Impact

In a review published in the December issue of Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers looked at mental health data from eight countries, including the United States. Results showed “relatively high rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychological distress, and stress.”

Common risk factors for mental distress during the COVID-19 pandemic include:

Female gender
Aged 40 and younger
Preexisting chronic or psychiatric illnesses
Unemployment
Current students
Frequent exposure to social media or news regarding COVID-19

A report by Mental Health America found that the prevalence of mental illness among U.S. adults was already on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2017-2018, 19 percent of adults experienced a mental illness, up 1.5 million people from the previous year.
Suicidal ideation also rose among adults by 0.15 percent from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018.
In September 2020, 8 in 10 people who took an anxiety screen showed moderate-to-severe symptoms. The number of people screening with moderate-to-severe depression and anxiety symptoms is currently higher than before COVID-19.

These findings are supported by findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (available via PDF) on suicidal ideation.

Evidence of Increasing Alcohol Consumption

Researchers from the RAND Corporation in California and the Indiana University School of Public Health have found changes in alcohol use during the COVID-19 public health emergency. In a research letter published in September in JAMA Network Open, the authors compared survey data collected from April 29 to June 9, 2019, and from May 28 to June 16, 2020.

The frequency of alcohol consumption increased 19 percent for adults aged 30 to 59 years.
Women in particular reported a 41-percent increase in heavy drinking between the two time periods.

Drug Use and Opioid Overdoses Persist

Many areas are reporting increases in drug use and overdoses, including opioids.

In West Virginia, the number of overdose-related emergency room visits was higher for July and August 2020 than the same months the year before.
In Maryland, 657 overdoses were recorded in Anne Arundel County since January, up 15 percent compared to last year. Of those overdoses, 113 people died, an 8 percent increase in fatalities compared to 2019.
A report by the American Medical Association (PDF) found that more than 40 states have seen a rise in opioid-related mortality.

Behavioral health and addiction treatment providers are seeing increased demand for their services, at the same time they may be facing practice limitations during the COVID-19 public health emergency. BestNotes’ EHR solutions are designed to help your behavioral health practice reduce frustration and stay compliant and profitable. Contact us today to schedule a free demo.

date:  Nov 24, 2020
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How Behavioral Health Practices Can Prepare for Increased Demand

Demand for behavioral health services has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides fears of the virus itself, job losses and financial difficulties are increasing anxiety while social isolation from quarantine and stay-at-home orders are leading to a rise in depression symptoms. These difficulties are also leading to an increase in suicidal behaviors and substance misuse.

Additionally, behavioral health demand was already on the rise before COVID-19. PwC reported in February 2020 that a Health Care Cost Institute report on U.S. healthcare spending trends found that spending on psychiatry grew 43 percent between 2014 and 2018. Use of psychiatric services rose 32 percent between 2014 and 2018.

If you are an independent behavioral health provider, how can you prepare for and respond to this increased demand for your services? Here are a few things to consider.

Take a closer look at your practice’s infrastructure.

Are you practically able to add more clients to your practice? Not only should you consider your own limits of time and energy, but you also have the practice itself to consider. Make sure your practice’s infrastructure, such as your waiting room, office space, and any administrative staff, can handle more clients.

Will additional clients create more expenses or administrative burdens? Are your current solutions, such as billing, scheduling, and electronic health record (EHR) software, enough to help you manage these new clients? Make sure you understand how an increased client load will affect your practice.

Partner with other organizations.

For one reason or another, you may not have the availability to serve additional clients in your own practice. However, you may still be able to make a difference and help mitigate behavioral health demand through partnerships with other organizations in your community.

Reach out to other providers in both physical and behavioral health, as well as local health and social services agencies and community groups. Connecting with other professionals and related organizations can help you raise awareness of behavioral health issues, refer individuals in need to appropriate providers, and build your own professional network and knowledge.

If you don’t use telehealth, now is the time to start.

If you have not already added telehealth capabilities to your behavioral health practice, it is not too late. In fact, teletherapy use may be even higher now than in the early stages of the pandemic. Remote behavioral health options could allow you to see more clients in less time, whether you are conducting initial assessments or talk therapy appointments.

Although requirements have relaxed during COVID-19, it is still important to follow best telehealth practices. Make sure you take the appropriate steps to make sure you get reimbursed for telehealth, as well.

Consider adding a partner to your practice.

When you are the only behavioral health provider at your independent practice, there are greater limits to the services you provide and the number of clients you have. Hiring another therapist at your practice, or even bringing on a business partner, is one way to expand your capacity.

When you’re stressed and overworked, the right clinical tools are critical for helping you and your staff continue to serve clients and stay on top of your workload. BestNotes EHR solutions offer easy implementation, reduced clicks, and thorough technical support, as well as telehealth capabilities. Our software was created with clinicians in mind, helping you do what you do best. Contact us to learn more.

date:  Nov 24, 2020
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What You Should Know About Hiring a Partner for Your Behavioral Health Practice: Part Two

In our previous blog post on hiring a partner for your independent behavioral health practice, we looked at how you should consider your goals for the partnership, its impact on your business, and your compensation offers.

Once you’ve decided you want to hire another therapist, or bring on another business partner, and what to offer them, here’s how to find and vet the right person.

Know where to look

Depending on the experience and credentials you want, you have different options for where to find the right candidate.

Let your professional network know you’re looking for someone to hire or join your practice.
Use online job boards, either general boards like Indeed or Linkedin, or websites specifically for behavioral health professionals, such as Therapist Job Board or Mental Health Work.
Post about the opportunity on social media, such as Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter. (Add hashtags for the city or job title to make your post more searchable.)
Reach out to local colleges and universities if you are interested in hiring a recent graduate.
Participate in job fairs or industry conferences that potential candidates may attend.
Contact local health organizations and associations about your opportunity.

Carefully consider how you market your practice in any job postings. Describe how the role will serve your clients and contribute to the organization. Make note of the benefits you offer. Describe the work environment and organizational culture, if possible.

Vet candidates carefully and thoroughly

Consider screening candidates over the phone before bringing them in for a formal interview. Critique all potential partners not only for yourself, but from your clients’ perspective. Make sure you choose someone who is not only clinically knowledgeable and trustworthy from an administrative standpoint, but who will serve clients in a compassionate, helpful way.

Before you make a formal offer, conduct a thorough background check, including their credit and criminal history. Request and follow up on references. This can take some time and money, but ultimately this step will protect your practice financially and ensure the safety of your clients.

Make sure you know the laws that apply to your practice. This means avoiding questions about an applicant’s status, such as race, religion, nationality, gender, age, or disability. Never discriminate based on those factors, whether you are hiring, managing, or firing an individual.

Negotiate with candidates appropriately

Once you find a candidate you like, it’s time to make an offer. This is when you discuss not only compensation, but your expectations. Don’t try to attract an employee by promising more than you can deliver, such as salary or vacation time.

While empathy is essential in a behavioral health job, don’t let it cloud your judgment. Don’t compromise on your non-negotiables, such as the hours you need them to work or the credentials they need to have. If the new therapist has shortcomings that can be corrected after hiring, such as obtaining a certain certification, note this in the employee contract, with a deadline for meeting the requirements.

Whatever your staffing situation, your EHR software should support your behavioral health practice’s specific needs. BestNotes EHR solutions, built specifically for behavioral health and addiction treatment providers, offer numerous customization options to help you save time, stay profitable, and make life easier for staff and clients. Contact us today to learn more, or schedule a free demo.

date:  Nov 19, 2020
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How Communities Are Coordinating Law Enforcement and Behavioral Health

Serious mental health incidents, from suicide attempts to drug overdoses to disruptive behavior, can prompt emergency calls that bring law enforcement officers to the scene.

However, individuals with untreated serious mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed while being approached or stopped by law enforcement than other civilians, according to the non-profit Treatment Advocacy Center. The Center found in 2015 that about 25 percent of fatal law enforcement encounters involved an individual with serious mental illness.

Several such fatalities in 2020 have led many states and communities across the United States to reconsider how law enforcement officers respond to behavioral health needs. Here are some of the changes they are considering.

In California and Ohio, an Emphasis on Training

The police department at San Jose, Calif., is partnering with a county behavioral health program in response to community concerns about how law enforcement officers deal with serious mental illness. Some San Jose Police Department officers will now participate in a one-year, twice-weekly pilot program that includes training in mental health and de-escalation.

In Ohio, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Seneca, Sandusky, and Wyandot Counties launched a new crisis intervention team (CIT) academy for several counties. This Pilot Online CIT Training Academy combines online learning, online meetings, and in-person training to create the first CIT hybrid training program of its kind in the state. Deputies, police officers, corrections officers, and dispatchers received training on de-escalation techniques and recognizing mental health issues.

Winnebago County in Illinois Partners With Mental Health Experts

When responding to emergency psychiatric episodes, deputies in Winnebago County and police officers in Rockford, Ill., will partner with mental health experts in a three-month pilot program. Rather than conducting an arrest and sending individuals into the criminal justice system, officers will direct individuals in a psychiatric crisis toward treatment.

The program, which launched November 1, includes a specially trained unit of two Rockford police officers, two Winnebago County sheriff’s deputies, and two crisis response workers from behavioral health organization Rosecrance. Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea says that, after a 911 call, law enforcement officers will secure an emergency scene before crisis workers assess the person and determine the next step, such as a counseling referral or transport to a medical facility.

Florida Law Enforcement Seeks Expert Help

The Hillsborough County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office in late October announced plans for a new behavioral health program that will change how county law enforcement responds to mental health calls. This program will connect people to the help and resources they need.

Tampa and St. Petersburg police departments have made similar moves to divert non-criminal calls to behavioral health experts rather than law enforcement. St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway said his department is seeking social workers and awaiting responses to a request for proposals issued in October.

As communities across the nation attempt to address police responses and improve care for mental health needs, your behavioral health practice is more important than ever. BestNotes EHR solutions help you improve communications and track outcomes so you can stay on top of demand and stay profitable as you make a difference for your clients and your communities. Contact us today to learn more or set up a free demo.

date:  Nov 19, 2020
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What You Should Know About Hiring a Partner for Your Behavioral Health Practice: Part One

You’ve finally fulfilled your dream of opening your own private behavioral health counseling practice. Congratulations!

Once you have a smoothly running practice, you may start thinking about hiring a partner or two. This is quite a common idea—many independent therapists and counselors participate in a group practice. Here’s what you need to know before you hire a partner for your private behavioral health practice.

Establish your goal for the partnership.

First, make sure you clarify to yourself why you want a partner or employee, and what goals you want to achieve. This will better prepare you to choose the right person. Possible goals include:

The ability to serve more clients
The ability to work reduced hours
Improving your client satisfaction rates and outcomes
Providing additional services you may not currently provide
Serving new client demographics or needs you may not have training or experience with

Evaluate how it affects you.

Once you have your goals set, consider the impact that a second therapist will have on your behavioral health practice.

Will the new counselor be a co-owner, employee, or independent contractor?
What additional expenses or administrative burdens will there be?
How many more clients will financially justify the partnership?
Can your practice’s infrastructure, such as your waiting room, office space, administrative staff, and software, handle the additional provider and patients?
Are you prepared to manage an employee, delegate decisions, or give up some control over the practice with a business partner?
Are you prepared to share liability?

Be sure to consult a trusted legal or financial professional before you go any further. If you have a professional network, mentor, or advisor, it’s a good idea to ask for their input, as well.

Decide what you want in a partner.

Once you know what you want from the partnership, and have decided to move forward, you will need to consider what skills and qualities you want in another clinician. This includes:

Education, training, and other credentials
Previous experience
Personality
How they fit with the culture of your practice
Their long-term career goals
Preferred treatment techniques
Philosophy and approach to client care

Offer the right compensation.

Once you have decided what you want from a second therapist, make sure you can compensate them appropriately. If you are hiring an employee or independent contractor, you need to decide if you will offer just a salary, or a base salary plus a bonus based on the income they generate.

Of course, compensation includes more than just a salary. There are other things to consider, especially for a full-time employee or partner:

Vacations
Malpractice insurance
Health and disability insurance
Reimbursement for continued education or licensing

Be sure to consult with a legal or financial advisor who is familiar with healthcare practice agreements. Research your competitors’ job listings, if they have any. Find out what benefits they offer, and make sure you can make comparable offers.

That’s all we have for now! In part two of this topic, we’ll look at how to find the best candidates, and how to vet them thoroughly to ensure a beneficial partnership and protect your clients.

Whether you are practicing solo or hiring a partner, your EHR software should support the unique needs of your practice. BestNotes EHR solutions have been developed specifically for behavioral health and addiction treatment providers, with numerous customization options to help you save time, stay profitable, and give your clients the best experience. Contact us today to learn more, or schedule a free demo.

date:  Nov 06, 2020
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