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COVID drives up demand for mental healthcare, further crimping access

Sean Wade, a registered nurse at Sutter Davis Hospital, demonstrates how a mobile workstation allows patients to connect with psychiatrists from around the country via its telepsychiatry program. On screen is Tim Jones, Sutter Health’s telepsychiatry program manager. Weeks of social distancing and economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19 coupled with the recent civil unrest over racial injustice is threatening to turn concerns over meeting demand for behavioral healthcare into a full-blown crisis.

Nearly half of U.S. adults reported their mental health was negatively affected due to worry and stress over the virus, according to a poll the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted in March.

Stakeholders fear the continuing effects of the pandemic will only accelerate the trend. “Prior to this pandemic, behavioral health conditions were already increasing significantly,” said John Boyd, CEO of mental health and addiction care for Sacramento, Calif.-based integrated health system Sutter Health.

While the increased demand for services has presented challenges, Boyd said it has also created an opportunity to examine how to expand patient access to care. Despite progress over the past decade in eliminating many of the more traditional barriers to accessing behavioral healthcare services, experts say many of the remaining issues can be traced to the […]

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