Experts are predicting an increase in the number of people seeking mental health and/or substance abuse treatment as Americans are released from Covid 19 shelter-in-place orders. Weeks of social isolation have been a breeding ground for fear and anxiety in response to the threat of infection, unemployment, and an impending economic crisis. The situation may nudge those who were previously on the border of a mental health or substance abuse crisis over the edge. Experts fear an increase in new cases as well as an increase in relapses.
A national survey by McKinsey & Company taken March 27- 29 revealed: 27% express heightened stress levels; 25% reported binge drinking at least once per week; 20% reported taking prescription drugs for non-medical purposes; and 14% reported taking illicit drugs. America was just beginning to see recovery from the opioid epidemic with a reported 4% decrease in the overdose rate in 2018. Experts fear that those gains are being lost. The state of Ohio, the proposed epicenter of the opioid epidemic in America, had already experienced a 22% drop in overdoses until this March when, in one county alone, 37 overdoses were recorded.
According to the American Addiction centers there are almost 20 million people 12 and older who suffer from substance use disorder. Many of these people are now suffering from isolation and disconnection from stabilizing sources like AA meetings, Smart recovery, or group meetings at a treatment facility.
New cases of mental health instability, experts fear, will develop from the high stress levels associated with the crisis. Because of the situation, many people will descend to deep feelings of futility resulting in either substance abuse or worse, suicidal ideations. The issue is quite disturbing and the picture is becoming clear that mental health in America will likely degrade. There will be a large influx of new clients all over the country calling upon Behavioral Health Facilities for treatment.
How can treatment facilities ready themselves for a surge in new clients?
Believe it or not, there are still facilities that do not employ an electronic health record (EHR) or practice management system (PMS). Studies show increased productivity and efficiency from a cloud-based system over pen and paper methods. The cost of these systems is marginal compared to the growth potential and the savings they create for an agency.
Other facilities are still operating with EHR systems that do not offer even a few of the latest technological advances such as integrated billing, real time client service monitoring or integrated telehealth. A fully comprehensive EHR will streamline an agency’s workflow to such a degree as to be able to manage more cases without the additional strain on the staff. Behavioral Health Clinicians are already among the most stressed workers in the nation with turnover rates as high as 40 percent. An estimated 30 percent leave the field every year. For agencies to survive the projected surge in new clients as a result of the Covid 19 crisis, they must also care for their workers. A fully comprehensive EHR and PMS system, especially one that is engaging and user friendly, is a valuable tool. Keeping clinicians – those that are trained in the systems and processes within the respective facility is paramount. Technology is proving to be the difference maker for the survival of behavioral health agencies in this crisis.