MANSFIELD — With Governor Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order still in effect due to COVID-19, many counseling agencies in Richland County have started using TeleHealth services, a method of virtual counseling.
As this grows more popular in the coming weeks, counseling providers will be more than ready to take on an expanding client list for those seeking help during the stay-at-home order.
“It’s slowly ramping up. I mean, we’re not seeing a huge surge, but they’re (the counseling centers) getting prepared to be able to do that,” said Joe Trolian, executive director of the Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services.
In Ashland, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Kailey Bradley said she acknowledges how the stay-at-home order can take a toll on mental health and continues to accept new clients during this pandemic.
“It’s kind of our nature as counselors where we like to engage with our clients and be very in-tune and present to them, and so I definitely think it’s an adjustment to utilize your counseling skills virtually, but I have found, personally, that yes, it’s an adjustment, but it’s going OK,” Bradley said.
According to Trolian, the behavioral health system is “open for business and will remain open,” although they won’t be accepting walk-ins. He encourages that all clients keep their scheduled appointments.
“There’s still just a lot of things that have to be done in person and so they’re doing a diligent job of making sure that the waiting rooms are set up to where people are sitting at least six feet apart, things are cleaned...” Trolian said.
Bradley’s main concern, among many other counselors, are the clients she won’t be able to communicate with because of their lack of access to a computer or the internet and called it a “barrier.”
Trolian and the other board members are looking for ways to supplement that need and hoping that the cell phone providers will start “lifting some of those limits” similar to what internet providers have already done. Though, he admits they’re not seeing much movement on Verizon Wireless’ side.
Bradley’s conjecture is that there will be an increase in clients over the course of the coronavirus outbreak because of the uncertainty and stress.
“It’s just a weird time and we’re all not sure what to feel,” Bradley said, speaking about the current state of the world. “We’re not sure if what we’re feeling is normal, and so I think this is a great time for people to reach out to a provider just to be able to put words and a name with their feelings to know that’s normal.”
There are some counseling services that are just now getting onto the wave of TeleHealth due to the crisis.
Tessa Bianchi, LPCC at New Directions Counseling Services, had no experience prior to COVID-19 about TeleHealth, but after having her first sessions on Monday she was relieved by how well it went.
“This is all new to a lot of professions, especially in the area. Telehealth has been going on for quite some time and there’s great value in it, but for a lot of us it’s pretty new.”
Because of state board policies, Bianchi and her team needed to prove they were competent to give counseling via telecommunications. It required over 12 and a half hours of training individually in one week with a test afterward that they needed to pass in order to become certified.
“That way we can prove that under this short time that we tried to do everything that we could to really work hard toward being competent to continue providing care. You can’t abandon your clients,” Bianchi said.
Although Bianchi does not anticipate using TeleHealth services once things go back to normal, she has seen the value and importance of that service.
“It’s opened the door for me to consider something that I never would have considered ever in my scope of work,” she said.
If you need to reach out to someone, please call the Ashland County Mental Health and Recovery Board hotline at (419) 289-6111, or use the Crisis Text Line: Text 4HOPE to 741741.