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News Roundup: Coronavirus and Behavioral Health

The COVID-19 outbreak, and the ongoing response to it, has had a significant impact on Americans’ mental health. Here is a look at how behavioral health providers around the country are responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Expanded Telehealth in Massachusetts Helping Adult and Children’s Mental Health

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker implemented emergency regulations in response to the coronavirus, including expanded access to telehealth to reduce the need for in-person appointments. Behavioral health providers say that this helps both adults and children reduce stress and increase resiliency to deal with the ways that COVID-19 has changed daily life

More behavioral health providers in the state are now offering telehealth appointments. This can help those clients with social anxiety, or those with physical disabilities or transportation issues. Faster, more convenient access to behavioral health can also help those who struggle with anxiety or feel disconnected or depressed.

Texas Launches Mental Health Line for COVID-19

Texas Health and Human Services has launched a 24-hour mental health support line for those who struggle with psychological or emotional challenges related to the coronavirus outbreak. The support line, operated by the Harris Center for Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disability and Behavioral Health Services, provides confidential, trauma-informed support and psychological first aid to those experiencing stress and anxiety related to COVID-19. This resource is available for all Texans at 833-986-1919.

Idaho Behavioral Health Experts Remain Available in Pandemic

Because telehealth may not be appropriate for all cases, many behavioral health facilities remain open and available during the coronavirus pandemic. Cottonwood Creek Behavioral Hospital in Meridian, Idaho, for example, is still accepting patients and admissions, and is offering resources for those in need. The hospital also has a 24/7 helpline for people who are wondering if they should be seen by a behavioral health professional.

The hospital is screening all patients and staff and performing infection-control measures.
Anyone who has recently traveled out of the country, or shows any symptoms consistent with COVID-19, such as cough or fever, will be asked to first seek medical attention before being admitted into Cottonwood Creek. Providers recommend that individuals watch out for suicidal thoughts, lack of motivation or interest, reduced functioning, and feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness in adults and children.

North Carolina Makes $30 Million Available for Behavioral Health

North Carolina’s seven Local Management Entities/Managed Care Organizations (LME/MCOs) for behavioral health will receive $30 million to maintain a variety of programs during the COVID-19 crisis. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, this money represents unused Medicaid funds. The LME/MCOS manage care for beneficiaries who receive mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse services.

The department has warned local providers to try their best to keep their clients out of hospitals, to help free up bed space and equipment for possible COVID-19 cases. The state has also announced that it is updating policies to waive many face-to-face provider requirements.

Behavioral health and addiction treatment solution

If you are a behavioral health or addiction treatment provider looking to move to telehealth, or simply struggling to keep up with increased demand for behavioral services, BestNotes EHR has resources that can help you streamline your practice and improve patient outcomes. Contact us today to learn more about our behavioral health solutions.

date:  Apr 17, 2020
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How the Coronavirus Outbreak Could Affect Behavioral Health

Social distancing, anxiety, and co-occurring disorders that raise the risk of COVID-19 infection can all exacerbate behavioral health symptoms. Behavioral health clinicians should be aware of these potential issues and help guide their staff and clients through this uncertain time.
Physical concerns for behavioral health clients during the coronavirus outbreak

Many behavioral health or addiction treatment clients have chronic conditions that may increase their vulnerability to COVID-19 infection. These may include:

Diabetes
Asthma or other chronic respiratory issue
Congestive heart failure or coronary artery disease
Cirrhosis of the liver
Extreme obesity
Weakened immune system

Behavioral health professionals can help such clients in numerous ways.

Discuss appropriate cleanliness and infection control measures that help reduce exposure.
Keep up with information from national and global health and science leaders, so you are prepared to address your clients’ questions and concerns.
Maintain collaboration with your clients’ other care teams.
Monitor clients for new or worsening symptoms.
Emphasize that any clients who feel unwell should stay home and reschedule any office appointments.
Conduct appointments through telehealth to avoid potential COVID-19 exposure.

Behavioral health effects of coronavirus

Many of the responses to the coronavirus outbreak, such as social distancing, can help the spread of COVID-19. However, they may trigger or worsen many behavioral health symptoms. Your clients may struggle with:

Fears of exposure to the coronavirus
Fears of shortages of food and medicine
Concern for loved ones who may be ill or at risk
Depression or loneliness from social isolation
Anxieties related to financial difficulties and job loss, especially for individuals working in businesses that have closed during the outbreak
Stress due to routine disruptions, including telecommuting or children being home from school
Mistrust of news sources or other authorities
Strained relationships in the same household from extended close contact

These struggles can create stress that compromises mental and physical health. Behavioral health and addiction treatment professionals should be aware of the potential triggers for behavioral health conditions, including:

Anxiety or OCD
Phobias, including fears of public spaces or hospitals
Substance misuse and addiction
Psychosis or delusions
Depression or bipolar disorder
Suicidal tendencies

How behavioral health providers can help

Behavioral health clinicians can be an important source of information and reassurance for clients and their families. Speak to clients from an attitude of calm, empathy, and authority.

Clinicians can also encourage their clients to follow healthy physical and mental habits:

Limit time spent reading or watching news or using social media
Stay connected with family, friends, and colleagues even without close physical proximity: phone calls, texting, sending greeting cards, and instant messaging.
Make sure to get physical exercise and proper diet
Meditation, deep breathing, and stretching exercises
Keeping to their usual routine as much as possible

Uncertainty can be stressful for clinicians, staff, and their clients. Continuing to follow healthy habits and recommended cleanliness practices not only can help reduce the spread of infection, but may help limit stress during the duration of the outbreak.

Using appropriate behavioral health tools

Like other healthcare providers, behavioral health clinicians may struggle to manage their staff and clients during the COVID-19 outbreak. BestNotes EHR has a variety of tools that can help you manage your client load and keep your practice running smoothly in uncertain times. Contact our team today to learn more.

date:  Mar 20, 2020
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How to Manage Working From Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak

As coronavirus cases rise across the nation, more and more organizations are encouraging employees to work from home to avoid potential exposure and spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Many behavioral health organizations may struggle with this change. While it may not be appropriate for all organizations or all employees, allowing remote work for some staff can help reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus.

Here are some ways to get your staff on board with remote work and encourage productivity even when telecommuting.

1. Understand the legal issues involved.

For behavioral health and addiction treatment providers, telecommuting may involve both labor and healthcare laws. Contact your legal counsel before allowing any staff members to work remotely, to make sure you are compliant with all applicable laws.

You should also consider how healthcare privacy laws may apply to the work your staff will be doing remotely, and the devices or software they may use. If any company property is being used off-site, make sure employees also understand their individual responsibilities.

2. Choose appropriate collaboration tools.

Besides any software you already use in the office, you may need to start using additional tools for employees who work remotely. You may use Slack, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Skype for meetings or instant messaging. Share documents and information with file-hosting services like Dropbox or Google Drive, though be careful to use these tools in adherence to HIPAA and other laws.

3. Set expectations for all team members.

Behavioral health practice staff should all be equally informed when implementing a new policy, including the start of telecommuting. Make sure that all staff members, on-site or off-site, understand:

Expected work hours
How communication will be shared
How to use any software or other tools used for collaboration
The time and frequency of any conference calls or video meetings
Each team member’s responsibilities

Be sure that all employees, whether working on-site or remotely, are held the same standard when it comes to the quality of their work. Team members should all be held the same expectations when it comes to their work hours, level of client service, and response times to communications.

Treat all employees, whether in-office or remote, equally. Those team members who are still on-site should not be expected to cover for others working remotely.

4. Stay calm.

The coronavirus outbreak still has many unknowns and uncertainties, from day-to-day safety measures to long-term economic impacts. This uncertainty can create anxiety, fear, and stress, which can reduce productivity and increase the risk of physical illness.

Behavioral health practice leaders should keep this in mind and be calm and reassuring to their staff and clients at every opportunity. Be friendly when talking to all employees; make sure to check in with remote workers and ask how they are doing. Stay optimistic and empathetic when interacting with all employees, and keep your fears or anxieties in check.

Help your behavioral health practice stay effective during the coronavirus outbreak

As the coronavirus outbreak continues across the United States, many behavioral health organizations are considering adding telehealth to their practice for the first time.

If you’re looking to offer your behavioral health or addiction treatment services remotely, BestNotes EHR has features that leverage low-cost telehealth solutions, such as Zoom or GoToMeeting.

Contact our team to learn more, or schedule a free demo!

date:  Mar 20, 2020
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How Behavioral Health Providers Can Stay Safe in the Coronavirus Outbreak

Behavioral health and addiction treatment providers have an important role to play in the coronavirus outbreak. As healthcare professionals, behavioral health clinicians should be ready to address concerns about the coronavirus from both clients and team members.

Avoid coronavirus spread and infections

Behavioral health organizations can help reduce the spread of coronavirus with the usual infection-control and disease-prevention measures:

Frequent hand-washing among providers, staff, and clients
Provide hand sanitizer, facial tissues, and wastebaskets in waiting rooms, bathrooms, and consultation rooms
Require any staff members who feel unwell to stay home
Maintain clean facilities
Establish an emergency preparedness plan in case your practice needs to close during the outbreak

Encourage clients who may be sick with a cold or flu, or who were exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 (the virus responsible for coronavirus infections), to use remote telemedicine solutions, if available.

Behavioral health organizations may need non-clinical staff to work from home, if possible. This may require significant adjustments to the usual operations and workflow. Leaders can help by taking several critical steps:

Maintain open communication, but stay calm and stick to the facts
Keep workers engaged and encourage information sharing, possibly with a dedicated platform or internal communication tool, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams
Determine your priorities and expectations, while also staying flexible

Understand behavioral health concerns from coronavirus

For some individuals, the fear and anxiety around the coronavirus may be worse than physical illness. In addition, many behavioral health or addiction treatment clients have chronic conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, that may make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

Behavioral health clinicians should be prepared to help clients, their families, and the general community understand the potential impact of the coronavirus. The outbreak may lead to stigma against infected individuals or groups, or mistrust of healthcare providers.

Clinicians should also be aware that fears of coronavirus may trigger or worsen many behavioral health conditions, including:

Anxiety or OCD
Substance misuse
Psychosis or delusions
Depression or loneliness, especially in quarantined or hospitalized individuals

Behavioral health professionals can help their clients and communities in many ways.

Participate in public discussions about the virus, including partnering with other healthcare providers.
Discuss cleanliness and infection control measures with staff.
Keep up with information from national and global health and science leaders.

Use telehealth during the coronavirus outbreak

On Friday, March 6, President Donald Trump signed into law the “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020,” a spending bill that provides $500 million through waivers for Medicare telehealth restrictions.

In general, Medicare coverage of telemedicine has been reserved solely for individuals in rural areas who lack convenient access to specialist treatment. The Coronavirus Preparedness Act allows the government to waive those restrictions in an emergency.

Although Medicare recipients cannot be tested for COVID-19 via telehealth, the expanded use of telehealth in response to the coronavirus can help with patient evaluations. This may alleviate any increased demands for care. Patients and behavioral health clients can also use telehealth to avoid potential exposure to individuals who may be infected with COVID-19.

Looking for a telehealth option with behavioral health?

The new spending bill indicates the increasing value and importance of telehealth, especially in an emergency like the coronavirus outbreak. If you’re looking to add telehealth to your behavioral health or addiction treatment practice, BestNotes EHR has a variety of options for you. Contact our team to learn more, or schedule a free demo!

date:  Mar 16, 2020
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What Behavioral Health and Addiction Treatment Providers Should Know About PDMP

Under a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), providers and pharmacists use an electronic database to track prescriptions for controlled substances, such as opioid medications. These PDMPs are intended to identify patients and behavioral health clients who may be misusing controlled prescriptions, which could put them at risk for addiction or overdose.

PDMPs allow users to collect, monitor, and analyze the data that pharmacies and providers submit regarding the prescription and dispensing of controlled prescriptions. States may use this information for research, education, and law enforcement.

The types of controlled substances included in PDMPs are based on federal and state laws for controlled substances. Most programs included medications listed on federal schedules II-IV. This may include:

Narcotics, such as hydrocodone
Tranquilizers, such as alprazolam and diazepam
Stimulants, such as methylphenidate

PDMPs are often used in collaboration with electronic prescribing for controlled substances (EPCS).

How should providers use a PDMP?

With a PDMP, clinicians are able to:

Identify clients and patients who may be obtaining prescriptions for controlled medications from multiple providers
Calculate the total amount of opioids prescribed to a client per day (in MME/day)
Identify individuals who are prescribed other controlled substances, such as benzodiazepines, that may increase the risk of opioids

The specific way you use your PDMP will depend on your state’s particular requirements, which may vary. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that clinicians check the PDMP at least once every 3 months, and before every opioid prescription.

If you have not yet begun using your state’s PDMP, check your individual state’s program to learn how to sign up. If your EHR solution offers e-prescribing, check with your vendor to see if you can integrate it with your state’s PDMP.

What if your client is flagged?

If your state PDMP indicates that your client is misusing controlled medications, it is important to take appropriate steps to protect their safety.

First, confirm that the information found in the PDMP is correct. Look for possible data-entry errors, signs of identity theft, or the use of an alternate name.

Once you have confirmed the information:

Do not immediately dismiss the client from your care.
If your client is receiving a high amount of medications, try to collaborate with him or her to taper down to a lower dosage or safer alternatives.
If there are high levels of opioids involved, consider offering naloxone or referring your client to the appropriate naloxone provider. You may consider offering or arranging for medication-assisted therapy.
Communicate the issue with your client’s other providers or caregivers.
If you or your client are concerned about opioid use disorder, discuss these safety concerns and all treatment options.
Discuss potential, non-medication options with your client, especially if there is chronic pain involved.
If you suspect diversion, consider using urine drug testing to determine whether opioids can be safely discontinued.

Always consider your client’s combined goals, needs, and risks when deciding how to approach the issue.

BestNotes EHR Solutions Offer PDMP

BestNotes EHR users can now access their state’s PDMP through BestNotes’ e-prescribing features. By pairing BestNotes’ e-prescribing capabilities with state PDMPs, you can continue to offer appropriate, high-quality care for behavioral health clients while remaining compliant with state, federal, and private mandates.

BestNotes EHR and CRM solutions are tailored specifically for mental health and addiction treatment providers, with e-prescribing and other medication management options. Contact us today to learn more.

date:  Mar 12, 2020
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