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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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Medicare Announces New Federal EPCS Mandate Deadline

Many health providers, including behavioral health providers and addiction treatment professionals, use electronic prescribing for medications. Amid the U.S. opioid crisis, these so-called e-prescriptions have become vital for helping to reduce fraud and errors associated with paper prescriptions.

E-prescriptions allow a provider’s orders to be entered automatically into their EHR, becoming accessible to the pharmacy and payers. Providers and pharmacies can use this information to identify behaviors associated with addiction or opioid misuse.

E-prescribing has become even more important in the age of COVID-19, when many providers used telehealth appointments and cannot write patients a paper prescription. It also helps those patients and clients who are unwilling or unable to enter a pharmacy with a paper prescription.

To help reduce the potential for opioid abuse associated with paper prescriptions, many states have implemented mandates for providers to use electronic prescribing for controlled substances (EPCS). The mandates went federal in 2018, when President Donald Trump signed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act to address opioid misuse and addiction. Part of this law requires EPCS for all controlled substances under Medicare Part D by January 1, 2021.

New EPCS developments

On December 1, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized the Requirement for Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS) for a Covered Part D drug under a Prescription Drug Plan or an MA-PD plan rule. Although this takes effect January 1, 2021, the compliance date has been set for January 1, 2022.

Under this final rule, the establishment of penalties to a future proposed rule have been deferred, with a comment period. Such penalties will not be enforced until January 1, 2022, at least.

Under Section 2003 of the SUPPORT Act, starting January 1, 2021, the prescribing of any Schedule II-V controlled substance under Medicare Part D must be done electronically, as part of an electronic prescription drug program. To help implement this provision, CMS requested information and stakeholder feedback in July 2020, including EPCS exceptions and possible penalties for noncompliance. Using the responses, CMS will draft separate rules for implementation.

CMS notes that prescribers will be required to use the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) SCRIPT 2017071 standard for EPCS prescription transmissions. Part D plans are already required to support this standard.

Take note that the federal requirement to implement EPCS and use a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) by January 1, 2021, is separate from, and in addition to, any state mandates. Eleven states also have mandated EPCS, effective the same date.

We’ve written about EPCS previously on the BestNotes blog. Feel free to check out some of those posts if you haven’t already.

BestNotes EHR Solutions Offer PDMP

BestNotes EHR users can use the e-prescribing features to access their state’s PDMP. Using BestNotes’ e-prescribing capabilities with state PDMPs helps you provide appropriate, high-quality care to your behavioral health and addiction treatment clients while staying compliant.

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:  Dec 22, 2020
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Mental Health Resources for Teachers, Addressing Police Policy Gaps, and More Idaho Behavioral Health News

BestNotes is dedicated to serving behavioral health and addiction treatment providers across the United States. Here’s a look at some of the major news stories that could impact behavioral health organizations in Idaho.

Statewide Mental Health Resources Available for Idaho Teachers

Teaching can be stressful at the best of times, but especially during a pandemic when educators are adapting to new teaching models, following additional safety measures, serving students’ emotional needs, and addressing their own health concerns. All that stress can create mental health issues like anxiety and depression, so school districts around Idaho are offering a variety of programs and resources for teachers in need.

Resources for teachers across the state include:

At the Nampa School District, teachers in many buildings have access to on-site staff counseling from outside vendors through the Employee Assistance Program.
Idaho Strong, an initiative from the state Department of Health and Welfare, offers emotional support, connection to resources, resilience skills, and education for Idahoans struggling mentally or emotionally with the pandemic.
The Boise School District offers a “Virtual Peace Room,” where students and families can find resources to help manage emotions during this period.

Northwest U.S. Sees Higher Death Count Not From COVID-19

Thousands more individuals in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington state have died in 2020 compared to a typical year, but many of those deaths are not from COVID-19. Idaho alone has seen about 1,100 more deaths than a normal year, according to preliminary federal and state data, a 13 percent increase for Idaho.

While some deaths may be unrecognized COVID-19 deaths, other deaths are due to an increased rate of suicides and drug overdoses. Increased death rates can be attributed in part to increased loneliness and isolation. They may also be caused by delayed care due to halts on many types of medical care, fears of exposure to the virus in the emergency room, as well as the loss of health insurance due to job layoffs and financial difficulties.

Boise Chief Acknowledges Law Enforcement Policy Gaps

After six months in the role, Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee has found several improvement opportunities for the city’s police department policy. Speaking at a work session of the Boise City Council, Lee noted that there are areas that do not “reflect national best practice.” Steps to correct these policy gaps include:

Officers who have not already had 40 hours of crisis intervention training are scheduled to complete that training.
In December, officers will undergo an updated implicit bias training.
The Boise Police Department is working to create another two-member behavioral health response team to respond to calls involving mental health crises.

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and an increased demand for services, behavioral health and addiction treatment providers in Idaho face enormous challenges. It’s time for an EHR designed specifically for your needs. Whether you are conducting telehealth visits, reporting outcomes to regulating agencies, following up with clients, billing payers, or marketing your services, BestNotes helps you streamline your workflow to increase your efficiency, profitability, and client success. Contact us today to learn more about our solutions.

date:  Dec 08, 2020
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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
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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