RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Despite fear and concern of the COVID-19 outbreak shutting down the non-essential business and slowing down others, Dr. Lakesha Roney a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) says she has seen an increase in coronavirus related stress and anxiety in her patients.
“I think individuals are seeing empty store shelves, packed emergency rooms and even empty streets and that is a fearful experience for them,” said Roney. "They’re anxious because of risk factors regarding catching that virus, they’re experiencing symptoms of depression due to the quarantine being socially isolated.
Roney who is the director of Central Virginia Preferred Providers says that isolation could be preventing people from seeing their therapists or counselors.
The good news is that her Henrico Health Practice and others like it are offering ways to meet with patients in their home without having to be face to face through telehealth practices.
“Telehealth is oftentimes an option that I don’t think clients necessarily think of when it comes to mental health treatment whether it’s counseling or psychiatry,” said Roney. “We thought this was a good time to capitalize on the fact that we offer telehealth anyway let’s just put it into effect and let’s see if more people will access our services because we’ve always offered it.”
Roney says that telehealth can be used to cover a wide range of community-based services that normally would take place in the home like Therapeutic Day Treatment for children in school, Intensive In-Home Counseling for children who are exhibiting behavioral issues in the home, school and community, Mental Health Skill-Building for individuals who have issues with daily living skills and Crisis Stabilization for individuals at risk of being hospitalized.
Roney says as a result of the outbreak HIPPA has temporarily relaxed its guidelines to allow professionals more telehealth options to reach their patients.
"Because we are in this crisis non-HIPPA-compliant options are available like Facetime and Skype and even google hangout, said Roney.
Roney says the telehealth meetings with a therapist or counselor are kept confidential through the products and services her practice and other practices use which must be HIPPA compliant.
“Through the HIPPA compliant video communication products that already exist, there is a business agreement that comes along with using those products and the company agrees to protect the confidentiality of the client. and they can’t agree to be HIPPA compliant without agreeing to certain criteria.”
Roney also encourages that individuals find other ways to cope with the stress of the COVID-19 outbreak. after their sessions with a therapist or counselor have ended.
“If you focus on what’s hear and now and be more solution-focused, that can be helpful,” said Roney. “Maintaining some sense of normalcy or routine to make things feel normal. Routine and structure make all of us feel normal,” said Roney"
In addition, Roney says individuals who may be in quarantine should make a build in some type of self-care within their schedule to help relax in moments of stress.
“What can you do to really take care of yourself at this time? If it’s reading a book watching a favorite movie, talking to a friend, or getting a good laugh whatever it is always engage in good self-care,” said Roney.
Roney hopes that more people are aware of telehealth options to treat mental health so that they aren’t left in the dark during COVID-19 or any health crisis and that other providers are more willing to use it in the future.
“Counseling is what keeps healthy people healthy,” said Roney.
Roney says you can always contact your primary care physician for local telehealth options, and your insurance provider can tell you who is in-network and who the can refer you.
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