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Health Disparities, Opioid Misuse, and Other Florida Behavioral Health News

Florida is facing numerous behavioral health struggles, including limited mental health resources, the effects of social distancing, and an ongoing opioid crisis. Here are some of the major behavioral health stories out of Florida in recent weeks.

1. Many Floridians Lack Behavioral Health Care Access

New research from Mental Health America shows that Florida is number 12 in the country when it comes to the prevalence of any mental illness. However, Florida ranked number 40 when it comes to access to care. More than 61 percent of Florida adults with a mental illness are unable to access treatment. This may be due to access to insurance, treatment costs, and other reasons. Nationwide, an average of 4.55 percent of adults have a seriously debilitating mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, in a year. According to Resources to Recover, around 3.8 percent of adults in Florida live with such a condition.

2. CDC Finds Minority Groups Get Less Mental Healthcare

A new report from the CDC about U.S. mental health before the COVID-19 pandemic found that non-Hispanic white adults were more likely to have received mental health treatment than any other race. About 10 percent fewer Black and Hispanic adults received mental health treatment, and Hispanic adults were the least likely to have received any mental health treatment. Black adults, however, were as likely as white adults to experience symptoms of depression. The Florida Department of Health’s 2017 State Health Assessment, the most recent such report, had similar findings.

3. Florida AG Addresses Opioid Misuse

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has issued statewide recommendations for addressing the ongoing opioid crisis in Florida. “There are signs that the pandemic may be contributing to an increase in opioid deaths, and that is even more reason why we cannot waiver in our fight to stop drug abuse,” Moody said. Recent efforts to reduce opioid misuse include a partnership between the Attorney General office and 211, a free, phone-based service offered by nonprofit and public agencies across the state.

4. Pinellas County Expands Mental Health Unit

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced plans to expand the county’s Sheriff’s Office unit that deals with mental health calls. The unit was originally formed in 2016, with two teams of a deputy and a social worker each. Gualtieri announced that the teams will be restructured and expanded to six deputies and six social workers, as well as a clinical supervisor. Four deputy-social worker pairs will respond to calls and assess a person’s situation. The other two teams will receive the cases and follow up to connect the person involved to services or resources.

5. Florida Education to Expand Telehealth Access

The Florida Department of Education plans to use $2 million from the federal CARES Act to increase access to mental telehealth services for schoolchildren. The money will be directed to 18 rural counties that have lower rates of internet connectivity and less access to mental health professionals.

Florida behavioral health and addiction treatment providers face numerous challenges in running their practice and meeting client needs. BestNotes’ EHR solutions are designed for behavioral health practices to help reduce frustration and keep your practice compliant and profitable. Contact us today to schedule a free demo.

date:  Oct 26, 2020
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Will changing the names of federal health agencies reduce addiction stigma?

The misuse of drugs and alcohol sometimes is referred to as drug and alcohol “abuse.” Many government agencies centered on addiction use the term in their names. This includes the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Faces & Voices of Recovery and the Recovery Research Institute of Harvard Medical School & Massachusetts General Hospital hope to change that. These organizations are leading a petition that calls on the U.S. Congress to rename federal organizations that refer to addiction as “abuse.”

Several addiction and behavioral health organizations have endorsed the petition. These include: American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, the Harm Reduction Coalition, the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, and the National Council for Behavioral Health.

The petition argues that referring to a person as a “drug abuser” or to the misuse of substances as “drug abuse” can increase stigma. This stigma may then create a barrier to treatment and eventual recovery.

Rethinking the use of “abuse” in addiction

A position statement published by the Society of Behavioral Medicine inspired the petition. In the statement, Dr. John Kelly and Valerie Earnshaw, PhD, called for the term “abuse” to be removed from federal administrations that address addiction. Instead, the word should be replaced with neutral, less stigmatized terminology.

Some suggested names for the organizations include the “National Institute on Alcohol Use Disorder,” the “National Institute on Drug Use Disorders,” or “Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services Administration.” However, changing the names of many federal health agencies would require an act of Congress.

The authors argue that terms such as “abuse” may convey that a person with addiction is engaged in “willful misconduct,” rather than conveying that their addiction and substance misuse are a disease that requires treatment. The word “abuse” may give the impression that an individual should receive punishment rather than treatment for substance misuse.

You can download and read the full PDF version of the brief, “End the Fatal Paradox: Change the Names of our Federal Institutes on Addiction.”

Research on addiction and stigma

Drs. Kelly and Earnshaw refer to several studies that examine the effect of stigma on addiction treatment and recovery.

A 2013 study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that health professionals generally hold a negative attitude towards patients with substance use disorders. This could reduce patient engagement and empowerment, potentially leading to worse treatment outcomes. Get the PDF of the study here.

Another team of researchers conducted a survey to find whether referring to an individual as “a substance abuser,” compared to “having a substance use disorder,” made a difference. Study participants were more likely to believe that the individual was personally to blame and required punitive action when they were exposed to “substance abuser” language. The study was published in 2010 in the International Journal on Drug Policy.

Behavioral health professionals who work in substance misuse face numerous challenges. BestNotes EHR software is designed with you in mind, to reduce frustration, improve the client experience, and make your practice more profitable. Contact us today to schedule a free demo.

date:  Oct 19, 2020
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Does the Recent Growth in Telehealth Have Staying Power?

Virtual care was already growing in popularity before the COVID-19 pandemic drove even more providers online to reduce the need for in-person visits and onsite staff. As normal services resume, however, there is uncertainty whether the boom in telehealth and remote work will last, or will face a decline after the end of the public health emergency.

Behavioral Health Provider Poll

A new poll of more than 1,000 behavioral health providers conducted in partnership with the National Council for Behavioral Health shows that respondents quickly pivoted to move operations online.

The vast majority of providers, as much as 80 percent, reported that they now deliver care virtually more than half of the time. Seventy percent of them expect that, in the future, at least 40 percent of care will continue to be virtual.

With that move to virtual care, however, comes a decline in revenue. Although telehealth can reduce no-shows and remote work can increase productivity, 64 percent of behavioral health providers say that they have experienced revenue losses during the pandemic.

Closing Revenue Gaps

Many health organizations, from small, private practices to major hospital systems, report that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, from delayed procedures to stay-at-home orders, has had a negative financial impact. A new report from Kaufman Hall shows that operating margins are down, even with federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Fortunately, telehealth may prove to be a revenue stop-gap for some practices. According to Fitch Ratings, remote care services could financially benefit practices and distributors, especially for those providers who prescribe medications or make referrals.

However, practices can only benefit financially from telehealth as long as payers continue to reimburse telehealth at current levels. Temporary waivers in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis have allowed behavioral health providers to bill for many telehealth services at the same rate as in-person services. If the waivers are not made permanent once the public health emergency is over, this revenue stop-gap will close.

Persistent Issues in Telehealth Adoption

Virtual care and remote work have brought benefits that could ensure its use for years to come, such as increased access to behavioral health and better work-life balance. However, there are still barriers to the adoption and ongoing use of telehealth.

According to IoT For All, telehealth’s long-term potential could be hindered by several issues:

Many providers are still not equipped for the move to virtual care
Virtual care quality can vary widely among providers
Lack of patient education and awareness of telehealth options
Less support from insurers for telehealth delivery
Reimbursement for telehealth remains uncertain and challenging

Many providers need a new EHR to maintain telehealth options. As behavioral health organizations continue to protect staff and clients while providing vital health services, it is important to adopt an EHR solution that will help meet financial needs while achieving the right balance between onsite and virtual care.
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:  Oct 16, 2020
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What Behavioral Health Providers Should Know About Suicide Rates in Young Adults

Behavioral health concerns, from depression to OCD to addiction, have been increasing due to fears of disease, social isolation, and limited activities associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, new research shows that young adults may be disproportionately affected. This includes an increase in suicide ideation.

What New CDC Data Show About Suicide in Young Adults

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that U.S. adults reported higher adverse mental health conditions in June 2020. Younger adults (aged 18-24 years) were one of the groups that experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, such as increased substance use and suicidal ideation.

In fact, of those adults aged 18-24 years who were surveyed, 25.5 percent reported that they had seriously considered suicide within the previous 30 days. This suicidal ideation was more prevalent among males than females.

Other mental health concerns commonly reported among adults aged 18-24 include:

-Symptoms of COVID-related trauma- and stressor-related disorder
-Symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder
-Starting or increasing substance use to cope with stress connected to COVID-19

According to CDC professionals, the prevalence of anxiety disorder symptoms was nearly three times that reported in the same period for 2019. Depression prevalence was nearly four times the same period of 2019.

Unfortunately, these new findings are part of a growing trend among U.S. young adults. Another CDC report found that the suicide rate among ages 10-24 years increased 57.4 percent from 2007 to 2018. Between 2007-2009 and 2016-2018, suicide rates increased significantly in 42 states and increased nonsignificantly in 8 states. (You can download the PDF version here.)

Public health experts are not certain what has caused the increase in suicides before the COVID-19 public health emergency. Lack of meaningful social connections, growing financial pressures, anxiety over safety and climate change, and lack of access to mental health resources have been suggested as possible reasons.

What Behavioral Health Providers Can Do for Young Clients At Risk of Suicide

Steps that may be taken among behavioral health providers include:

Health screenings for those who may be at risk
Identify clients most at risk of being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
Work with clients to find individual, meaningful activities to reduce or prevent symptoms of depression or anxiety
Partner with other health providers, local health agencies, and community groups to increase awareness of and access to behavioral healthcare
Implement a robust follow-up plan for at-risk clients or clients who have survived suicide attempts
Consider alternative ways to deliver behavioral health services, such as telehealth
Monitor client medication use and adherence, if applicable

Research published this year in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling found a significant inverse relationship between number of professional counselors in an area and suicide deaths. Thus, therapists, counselors, and social workers, have an important role in lowering the suicide rate.

If your practice is struggling with the increased demand for behavioral health services, BestNotes has your back. BestNotes EHR solutions allow users to save template letters for follow-ups, as well as send questionnaires for progress monitoring. This helps you reach out to individual clients, improve client outcomes, and better track data for reporting.

The right EHR system can help you accurately document and follow-up your behavioral health and addiction treatment clients for the best outcomes. Contact BestNotes today to learn more about our customizable options.

date:  Oct 01, 2020
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Crisis Hotlines, Diversion Programs, and Other Behavioral Health News in Utah

Like many parts of the nation, Utah is seeing mental health effects from the COVID-19 public health emergency, while also struggling with opioid misuse. However, Utah is bucking national trends in other ways. Check out some of the behavioral health news stories making headlines in Utah.

Federal Grant to Southern Utah University Could Help Rural Opioid Addiction

Southern Utah University (SUU) has received $1 million from the federal Health Resources and Service Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to help fight opioid addiction among rural Utahns. SUU will use the funding for a pilot telemedicine program to address opioid medication addiction in Garfield, Kane, Piute, and Wayne counties.

Health facilities in the state will refer a total of 18 patients to the pilot program. The program will provide substance abuse, mental health, and nutritional counseling. A group of private and public companies will collaborate with SUU to offer these services.

Utah Suicides Decline, Crisis Calls Rise

Contrary to national trends, Utah has seen a lower suicide rate during the COVID-19 public health emergency. At the same time, the Utah Department of Health reports that calls to the Utah Crisis Line have increased. May 2020 saw a 1.6 percent increase in call volume compared to May 2019. Currently about one in four Utahns is experiencing symptoms of depression.

Utah Jail Diversion Programs Win State Recognition

Davis County, Utah, has received praise for a diversion program aimed at sending offenders to substance abuse or mental health treatment instead of jail. Under this program, police in Davis County can take nonviolent arrestees with behavioral health problems to the Behavioral Health Receiving Center instead of automatically booking them into jail. At the center, arrestees are placed under observation and then referred to treatment programs. If the arrestee chooses not to seek treatment, the officer can return to make an arrest.

This program, launched in December 2019, is meant in part to help alleviate burdens on the county jail. According to Brandon Hatch, CEO of Davis Behavioral Health, which runs the program, 78 percent of the program’s more than 300 clients have been involved in treatment.

Opioid-Related Overdoses May Be Increasing in Parts of Utah

Starting in early August 2020, law enforcement officials in Salt Lake City began to notice a potent type of heroin laced with the synthetic opioid fentanyl. The drug has been dubbed “hulk” for its green color. This drug has been linked to a series of powerful overdoses that required multiple doses of naloxone, or even a naloxone IV drip at the hospital, to reverse them.

Utah Naloxone reported 175 overdose reversals in August 2020, up from 125 in July and 99 in June. The exact number of overdoses may be higher than what has been reported. Some experts suggest that the increase of overdoses is due to social isolation stemming from the COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as restrictions that have disrupted the usual drug supply chains.

Utah behavioral health providers have been addressing a variety of mental health and substance misuse issues, all while moving services online during the COVID-19 pandemic. The right EHR solution can help you streamline your practice, serve client needs, and stay profitable in uncertain times. Contact the BestNotes EHR team to schedule a free demo and find out how our customized, telehealth-friendly behavioral health solutions can help.

date:  Sep 28, 2020
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