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While it's still unclear what exactly a post-COVID world will look like in a lot of ways, a few trends have clearly emerged after 18 months. There's the mainstreaming of virtual care, but there's also, in conjunction with that, the rise of teletherapy, with companies like BetterHelp, BetterUp, 98point6, Amwell, and numerous others, all seeing big increases in activity.
Sadly, while adults have certainly taken a mental health hit, so have children, who had to deal distance learning and being separated from their friends for months, the effects of which are won't just go away once schools reopen and kids come back to the classroom.
The need for teletherapy in school has greatly increased since the start of the pandemic, but what’s just as important is that it has also become more accepted," said Rachel Mack Robinson, founder and president of pediatric teletherapy provider DotCom Therapy (DCT).
"When students began learning from home, many students who relied on in-person therapy services such as mental health services, speech therapy, occupational therapy and more, had to put certain needs on the back burner. Teletherapy was a crucial lifeline for many kids and families, and while many may have had hesitancy at first, it has now become a normal part of their routine," she told me.
Now that they’ve experienced teletherapy, she said, families and schools have seen that it can be just as effective as meeting in person. Not to mention the fact that it can be done in the comfort of your home is a massive benefit for busy families or those who might lack transportation options.
That change is why DotCom Therapy is making an effort to expand its services to more schools through a partnership with Goodside Health (GSH), a provider of in-school telemedicine, which primarily focuses on physical health.
The combining of the two services means that students who use Goodside, and who are identified for elevated depression and anxiety screening scores, will now have access to DotCom Therapy’s team of licensed therapists.
"Goodside Health offers telemedicine services that are able to meet the physical health requirements of the school’s students, but need help when addressing the mental health of students. Goodside Health will screen students for mental health challenges and refer DotCom Therapy to students in need of direct services or additional support. The partnership offers the ability to share comprehensive patient health information," Tracy Spinner, Executive Director at Goodside Health, explained.
If a GSH provider who is providing physical care within a telehealth visit becomes concerned about a child's mental health, and if the child has parental consent to receive a mental health screening, that nurse can then provide the initial mental health screening using a widely accepted screening tool in pediatrics, either the PHQ2, PHQ9, or the Columbia.
Goodside Health will securely connect through Zesh, which is DotCom Therapy’s web-based teletherapy application, providing counseling services to patients right in their school nurses’ office. In addition, parents and educators can also connect to the platform on their end as well.
"School district staff who know their students and know when their students may need additional mental health support can refer students to the school nurse for a mental health screening. To help school staff, DotCom Therapy helps to empower educators to know the signs for students needing more mental health support through The DotCommunity - their proprietary resource and training library," said Spinner.
Founded in 2015, DotCom Therapy works with schools, health systems, health plans, communities and families to provide children with behavioral, speech and occupational therapy where and when they need it. The company has a nationwide network of qualified and licensed providers who a meet with children via Zesh, but Robinson explained to me that the company is "much more than just a platform."
"We work with individual schools, families and other clients to mold our services to their unique needs. We first offer a matching process to ensure we are connecting each patient or student with the therapist that’s right for them. We also schedule work with parents and schools to make sure all of our goals are aligned in order to produce the best results for the children we serve," she said.
Currently, Goodside Health is in partnership with 64 school districts and reaching over 800,000 students, while DotCom Therapy is currently in over 400 schools in over 38 states, serving about 8,000 sessions a month. Through this partnership with Goodside Health, DotCom Therapy hopes that, together, they can reach even more schools, as well as find new schools and school districts that may benefit from the combined services.
"Goodside Health's goal is to close the gap in healthcare for children through innovation and quality execution. Our innovative partnership with DotCom Therapy brings together two mission-driven and purpose-focused companies that together we can care for, support, and provide services for the whole child in the space and place where students grow, learn, and thrive in school," said Spinner.
"If we're able to create a seamless model of care delivery within schools to not only assess, but also diagnose, and treat a child's physical health and mental health, and the child is able to stay in school, be academically successful, and receive the holistic care they need, our partnership is successful."
(Image source: dotcomtherapy.com)
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