Patients Adapt to Telemedicine Counseling

May 4, 2020

The coronavirus lockdown has disrupted most facets of everyday life, including mental health counseling and support services. Mental health providers that are members of the Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition quickly adapted to video technology platforms to continue essential services for new and existing patients.

According to Heather Mendyk, program director for Horizon Health Service’s Transit Family Recovery Center, patients are able to receive counseling, psychiatric and other support services from the safety of their home or another remote location.

“During this sensitive time, there has been an increased need for people of all ages to reach out, connect with others, and receive help and support,” Mendyk said. “We are experiencing an increased need for mental health and substance use support across the board, including an increase in healthcare and frontline workers seeking support as they work hard to keep us all safe.”

Horizon Health Services provides treatment to patients ages 13 and up, and operates family recovery services, for new and existing patients. The agency provides specialized mental health and substance use counseling and psychiatric services for adolescents and their families with a focus on early intervention, education, skill development, improved communication and more.

“Telehealth services, including assessments for new patients are being offered through a safe and confidential video telehealth platform, as well as telephonically,” Mendyk said.

Existing patients have been supported by their current treatment team in determining their personalized method for receiving services and for technological support. All new and existing patients are encouraged to prepare for their sessions by ensuring that they can participate from a quiet, private and confidential location.

BryLin Behavioral Health Services transitioned to telehealth appointments on March 23 and is utilizing HIPAA-compliant technology to provide counseling services.

According to Lindsay Herndon, BryLin’s director of outpatient services for mental health and substance use, the move to telemedicine was very smooth.

“Most clients have been happy to meet with their counselors via webcams,” Herndon said. “These sessions are very similar to in-person appointments, and counselors can see body movement and facial expressions and can still measure progression.”

Stigma continues to be prevalent during the lockdown and Herndon encourages anyone who is struggling to reach out and seek help.

“If you are struggling, it’s highly likely everyone else is struggling, too,” Herndon said. “Now is a great time to arrange an online session, find a quiet corner and talk to a counselor online.”

The focus on mental health counseling is on overall wellness with counseling centered on symptom reduction and management; skill building; coping skills development; and support. Through their Child and Adolescent program, BryLin is now also accepting patients between the ages of 5-17 for telehealth sessions.

BryLin can also accommodate individuals in crisis and has beds available if hospitalization is necessary.

Many organizations are providing support by using technology to remain connected. Parent Network of WNY is hosting online chat sessions for parents of children with developmental disabilities.

Mental Health Advocates of WNY (MHA) employs several credentialed Youth Peer Advocates who facilitate peer support groups and provide 1:1 mentoring throughout WNY in schools and hospitals as well as for individuals and families. The use of online video and phone conferencing has kept this critical connection going during the stay-at-home order.

One-on-one student mentoring continues by phone. Support groups are held via Zoom and are a safe place for teens and “20 Somethings” to discuss their concerns, work on their mental health and/or substance use struggles, and build skills to maintain their wellness and self-care.

For more information about MHA youth peer support groups and other youth peer services, contact [email protected] or call 716.886.1242 x345, or call/text 716.245.5339.

MHA has published an extensive resource guide for the community including how to access mental health and grief support.

Jewish Family Services (JFS) is using technology for mental health clients including school-based youths normally served through the KidSuccess program. JFS is also offering telehealth counseling services to any individuals in the community that may be impacted by the stress of COVID-19. Call 720.248.4701 or email [email protected].

Crisis Services

24-Hour Crisis Hotline:

Anyone of any age who is experiencing a personal, emotional or mental health crisis can call 24 hours a day. Our Hotline Counselors are dedicated to providing the best services to every caller. Hotline Counselors are trained in telephone lethality assessments to assess the level of individual risk and to determine the appropriate level of services. We provide crisis counseling, suicide prevention, support, information, and referral. We triage each call in order of emergency, so please be patient and stay on the line, your call is very important to us.

24-Hour Addiction Hotline:

The Addiction Hotline is available for people living in Erie County. Professionals are standing by to link callers to substance abuse treatment services and provide supportive counseling for the person addicted, friends and family. The Addiction Hotline delivers immediate engagement, assessment, and referral services for people suffering from a substance use disorder.

Kids’ Helpline:
716-834-1144 or 1-877-KIDS-400

The Kids Helpline is a part of the Crisis Counseling Program. These services are 24/7 and offer immediate response and information on a variety of issues related to youth and their families.

Chautauqua County Hotline

24 Hour Erie County Domestic Violence Hotline
For Shelter: 716-884-6000

24 Hour NYS Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline

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