As Ohioans prepare for the expiration of the stay-at-home order, some mental health professionals predict mental health services may see a surge in demand similar to surges seen in hospitals and emergency departments across the country, Family and Recovery Services (FRS) CEO Roger Cheesbro told The Times-Gazette.
But Cheesbro said preparations for a potential surge in demand for mental health services may differ from those that local hospitals underwent.
“We probably won’t do anything necessarily different in terms of how we go about our day-to-day business. If we start to see a surge, we’ll probably make some adjustments in our admission process, which is what we would do anyway,” Cheesbro said. “Our main thing right now is to get our clinical staff back in the office. Right now, many of them are working from home. We’re looking toward getting staff back in the office full-time in a safe and healthy environment and preparing for the surge by being present in the office so we can field the calls.”
Since March, FRS has taken on 20 to 25 new outpatient clients, something Cheesbro said was made easier by adjustments to state requirements.
“The regular rule is that we have to see someone face-to-face to admit someone for outpatient services,” Cheesbro said. “With the COVID-19 situation, one of the rules that was passed allows us to do admissions without a face-to-face appointment. It’s been a lot of work at the state level to put us in a position locally where we can provide the services that we need.”
FRS started offering telehealth services, or health services offered via phone or video conferencing platforms, in March, but once the stay-at-home order went into effect, Cheesbro said they were able to fully transition into telehealth with all their active clients.
“The state has given us a lot of latitude so we can maintain contact with our clients,” he said. “Several of the folks we work with don’t have access to the internet, so we can provide telehealth services through audio or audio and video. Our staff is using a mix, depending on what the client’s availability is.”
Once society goes back to “normal,” Cheesbro said he hopes requirements for services like telehealth remain more flexible.
“It’s another engagement tool. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s the option we have right now,” Cheesbro said. “We’ll continue using it for the foreseeable future.”
In the meantime, Cheesbro recommended reaching out to a mental health provider like FRS for help or direction to resources.
“Everybody’s been impacted by this, and it’s OK that we’re being impacted because that’s how we’re structured. This is not fun, this is not how we usually go about our daily business. The problem comes when it starts to have an impact on the functioning that we do need to engage in,” Cheesbro said. “Anytime we go through a stressful situation like this, there’s some reverberation, for lack of a better term. It’s going to vary from person to person. I think it’s important that people stay as connected as they can.”
If you need emotional support, call the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ COVID CareLine at 1-800-720-9616. Through the line, licensed mental health professionals are available and can provide confidential support, 24 hours a day, seven hours a week.
“You don’t have to be, as I understand it, in need of anything other than support [to call the COVID CareLine],” Cheesbro said.
Tips for coping with COVID-19-related anxiety can also be found at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s Disaster Distress Line at 1-800-985-5990, or text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. If you think you’re in danger of harming yourself, please go to an emergency room for evaluation or reach out to a loved one.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.