Providers are “kind of trying everything right now and seeing what can work,” said John Torous, director of the digital psychiatry division at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. That includes meeting patients virtually on popular video chat apps like Google Hangouts and Skype after the Trump administration temporarily relaxed rules that long restricted health care’s use of these platforms over privacy concerns.
In addition to the people who were already receiving therapy or treatment for behavioral health, many more are now confronting isolation and anxiety because of the health and financial crisis. Nearly half of Americans say the pandemic is already affecting their mental health, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
“I would expect with these kinds of deprivations or stressors that those numbers would only increase,” said Elinore McCance-Katz, Trump’s top mental health official. The agency she runs, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has been hosting calls with behavioral health providers to walk through conducting virtual care during the pandemic.