As the coronavirus crisis unfolds, the focus has been on caring for the physical health of those struggling with the disease. News of the medical profession’s responses to the crisis naturally dominated headlines — and our collective consciousness. While it may have been out of the public eye, the community behavioral health care system has been responding in force to our community’s crisis as well.
Alongside the work of doctors, nurses, first responders and other medical professionals, we in community behavioral health care have been proactive and responsive in serving the community through essential services and urgent care whenever and wherever it is needed. As our health-care colleagues fight every day for the health of the public, it is important for the community to know that we in the behavioral health-care system are in the fight as well.
Stress, anxiety and depression, all brought on by the current crisis, affect thousands of people in the state who rely on the community behavioral health care system to keep them stable, safe and hopeful. Community behavioral health care providers — psychiatrists, nurses, physician assistants, masters’ level clinicians, peer support specialists and case managers — put themselves on the front lines every day to deliver care, provide stability and offer support to vulnerable people. Many of these individuals are homeless, have no family or have no loved ones. Isolation, poor living conditions and other struggles will only worsen the anxiety that these vulnerable people experience and we are there for them.
An article in the March 15 edition of Psychiatric Times cites studies demonstrating that rates of depression increase after exposure to infectious-disease outbreaks. Sound’s clients are telling us already of their anxieties and depression, so we know it is happening. Behavioral health care professionals are crucial during these times because they are uniquely qualified to help clients — and the community at large — understand and cope with the fears, concerns and anxiety the crisis causes.
Without the community behavioral health care system, many in our community would relapse, become unstable and quickly experience worsening mental and physical health, propelling them into a health-care system that is already at capacity and stressed.
To ensure that we are able to still serve the community and limit the spread of coronavirus, our industry has increased the use of telehealth and telephonic services over the past several weeks. Though we have used telehealth successfully over the years, this crisis, and loosened restrictions by health-care authorities, enabled us to rapidly expand our use of telephonic platforms such as FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and others. Our clients receive support, advice and counseling without setting foot in an office — enabling them to maintain their good health — and keep them out of our hospitals.
To see the heroism, dedication and tireless mobilization of health-care professionals, and our local, state and regional leadership is truly inspiring. We in the community behavioral health care field are working right alongside them to ensure that our community can weather this health-care crisis, both in body and mind. Sound, one of King County’s most comprehensive providers of mental-health and addiction-treatment services, has been serving this community for more than 50 years. We are actively serving the community now in time of crisis, and we will continue to serve well into the future.