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Telehealth letter from Elle Davison, West Allis treatment team

04/27/20 02:20:pm

The past few months have been a time of uncertainty, fear, and change for all of us. When the world feels unstable, the need for mental health treatment is high. We knew our patients needed us, maybe now more than ever. But continuing group therapy in person during the pandemic put their physical wellbeing at risk.

As an organization we had to determine how to continue providing high-quality care while adapting to the changing world during the pandemic. While other treatment centers have closed their doors, we expanded our reach through the virtual world. We were able to rise above the challenges and successfully transitioned our intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization completely to telehealth.

Many people, even some within Rogers, didn’t believe so much could be accomplished in so little time. But we did it, thanks to hard work, determination, and the support of leadership and each other. In West Allis, we went from serving 50 child and adolescent patients in person to remotely from the comfort of their own homes. We are even seeing an increase in the attendance rate, indicating that telehealth removed some barriers to attending treatment regularly.

All of this was done in just one week.

Our team’s comfort level with the telehealth technology and providing therapy virtually varied significantly. And while many of our patients were comfortable with the electronic format, not all of them had easy access to the resources they would need to connect. Leadership created training modules and we learned as we went. We helped to teach each other and even learned from our patients at times. The Foundation immediately began exploring ways to support our patients who didn’t have the means to connect virtually, so they could continue receiving care.

Our IOPs and PHPs continue to offer care for three and six hours a day, respectively. During these hours the patients are taught skills to manage the emotions they are struggling with in our safe, virtual space. Each patient continues to receive group, individual, and family therapy. We have been creative and flexible in own approach to group therapy while still providing evidence-based treatment.

As a treatment team, we are proud of the interactive nature of our programs and making sure telehealth didn’t lose that was a priority. Group leaders in particular have been extremely creative in finding new ways to engage our patients. This can be anything from a group yoga session to playing Pictionary after everyone has completed their check out sheets. Most of our patients have been choosing to stay after group time has ended to laugh and be silly together. Most of them don’t even realize they are doing opposite to emotion action at the same time.

Because of the online nature of our treatment, we are able to serve patients who live too far away to make the daily drive to attend in person. We can serve patients who don’t have family members who are able to provide transportation to and from treatment each day. And we can serve patients whose physical health makes attending in person difficult to impossible.

As a society we have an opportunity to make a choice during this crisis. We can choose fear, isolation, and loneliness. Or we can choose connection, care, and support for each other.

I’m proud to say we have chosen to continue helping and healing our patients.

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