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September 11, 2020

Mental Health Struggles on the Rise Amid Pandemic

By Nick Reisman City of Albany

PUBLISHED 5:32 AM ET Sep. 11, 2020

About 40% of adults have struggled with their mental health during the pandemic, a number that rose to half of health care workers also reported troubles amid the crisis, according to the Office of Mental Health this week in testimony to state lawmakers.

With businesses closed for in person visits around the state, telehealth claims through OMH increased by 55% from March to April.

The same went for CHE Behavioral Health Services based in Brooklyn, which was seeing about 10 patients a day via telehealth back in February and is now conducting around 15,000 behavioral telehealth visits every month.

"It's been a lifeline for a lot of patients," CHE President Raphael Treitel said. “People are so consumed by the emergency in front of them, then when things slow down, they start for the first time confronting the loss they suffered…that’s when the depression starts to set in. People shouldn’t feel alone, they should know there are trained professionals."

CHE partnered with 15 insurance companies in New York that will now cover behavioral telehealth visits.

Prior to COVID-19, Treitel says insurance reimbursement for telehealth visits was often only for people living in rural areas.

Many insurance companies chose to expand their coverage to include telehealth visits once the pandemic hit, giving people more options while staying at home.

OMH says they are working on ways to make this flexibility permanent.

Recently, the state modified the definition of telehealth under the Public Health Law to include telephonic and both will be reimbursed by Medicaid.

"We expect that in the future, telehealth is here to stay," OMH Commissioner Anne Sullivan explained.

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