As the COVID-19 pandemic continues on with social distancing and other measures still in effect across the country, organizations must continue to look at how this is affecting their operations. For Heartland House this means continuing to look at our programming and how we can help the most amount of men possible through our programs while still maintaining safety for all of clients and staff.

This has certainly meant increased cleaning services, health monitoring, and adhering to local health regulations (see other blogs here for more information). This also means continuing to analyze our programs and our ability to offer services in a safe manner. Telehealth services for substance use disorder has been studied more frequently over the past decade or so, and has garnered even more attention now that social distancing remains in effect and people want to remain safe while also getting the help that they need. 

Here are some questions we are hearing our clients and other interested parties asking about telehealth services:

What Exactly is Telehealth?

Telehealth involves medical or health services that are offered via the use of technologies such as telephone-based, videoconferencing, texting, smartphone applications and other web-based tools. Telehealth is provided digitally so that the patient does not have to travel to their provider’s location or office.

 

Does Telehealth Work for SUD?

Telehealth can sometimes be the only option that someone has for treatment from substance use disorder. A majority of opioid addiction cases are in rural areas where detox facilities and other treatment programs are few and far between, so people in these areas are beginning to see results in utilizing telehealth services.

Some studies have been conducted over the past decade and the results are generally good, though not enough evidence exists to say conclusively that telehealth addiction treatment works for everyone. Reference Some studies were done regarding interventions occurring over telehealth services, and while these were successful it is difficult to gauge the entirety of all services for substance use disorder as there can be so many categories. This is also growing immensely, and has specifically grown in the past few years (and even more so during COVID-19) so the information is ever evolving.

 

What Kind of Telehealth Services Are Available?

Telehealth services usually come in the form of phone calls, videoconferencing, smartphone apps, website applications, and any other means where technology replaces the face-to-face clinical interaction. Within these services, patients may be able to do any of the following activities:

  • Group counseling via video conference
  • One-on-one counseling via video conference
  • Text message check in with medical professional
  • Smartphone app notifications, or interactive reminders to take medications, check in with a therapist, etc.
  • Website application patient log in for videos, articles, or worksheets for recovery programs

The options are endless when it comes to applying these services to technology. Of course state-wide regulations may vary, so certain services may be available in some places but not others.

 

How do I know if I am eligible for telehealth services?

Depending on the type of telehealth you are looking for you may need to check with your healthcare provider to see what services are available. There are also a lot of regulation changes that have gone into effect with the declaration of a national emergency for the sake of COVID-19, so many policies have changed. You can also check the National Telehealth Policy Resource Center for information on various policies. Medicaid.gov and Medicare.gov also have resources and information on telehealth.

Plenty of telehealth options are available simply by paying cash up front, and in a much more affordable way than paying cash without insurance at a regular doctor’s appointment. There are a lot of online mental health programs available for as low at $20 per session!

 

Does Heartland House Offer Telehealth Services?

Residents attend a minimum of (3) AA meeting a week via Zoom. Counselors may provide individual one-on-ones, groups, case management and treatment team meetings. 

Joey’s thoughts about telehealth;

“In the beginning it felt weird talking to someone on the telephone and then looking at them on a screen. Maybe I’m getting used to it now, it is easy and convenient but it does make a difference if eye contact isn’t there. It’s better than no services. The staff do a good job with me feeling connected and it’s not that way everywhere.”  

 

Where Can I Get More Information?

Here is a list of various resources regarding healthcare and telehealth:

National Telehealth Policy Resource Center 

Medicaid.gov

Medicare.gov

Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services

American Academy of Family Physicians 

American Society of Addiction Medicine 

Change in Admissions Policy in response to COVID-19View Changes

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