As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, students can no longer easily receive support from counselors or school psychologists, which makes connecting them with appropriate mental health resources more challenging than ever.
Fortunately, schools and districts can still support students’ mental health needs during this stressful time by using teletherapy, which utilizes video conferencing to provide services. Teletherapy is a great resource for students who require mental health services but are confined to their homes for the next few weeks or months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Below we offer suggestions for how schools can take advantage of the support offered by teletherapy.
Use a HIPAA-compliant teleconferencing platform for existing school mental health services
Tech solutions for improving access to mental health
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Districts and schools that already have psychologists and counselors offering school-based care may want to use a virtual platform to enable students to continue to receive that care when schools are closed. One important concern is how to preserve HIPAA compliance for student mental health care when using telehealth platforms. Fortunately, the Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights announced on March 17, 2020 that it will waive potential HIPAA penalties “in cases of good faith use of telehealth during the nationwide COVID-19 public health emergency.” In addition, many examples of HIPAA-compliant video teleconferencing services already exist. Below are some of the more popular platforms used by providers:
- Zoom for Healthcare. The HIPAA-compliant plan costs a minimum of $200/month with a 12-month commitment
- Doxy. A basic free version is available
- SimplePractice. This platform starts at $39/month
- thera-LINK. Plans start at $30/month
For more information on HIPAA compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic, reach out to the HIPAA Journal’s hotline at (800) 231-4096 for answers to your questions.
Connect with an outside teletherapy provider to serve your students
For those schools that do not have mental health providers in your region or in your district, you can work with outside companies to set up virtual appointments with mental health providers for school-aged children. Below we have provided several examples of available vendors that work directly with schools and are all HIPAA-compliant:
- Insight Telepsychiatry is an organization whose mission is to transform access to behavioral health care through innovative applications of technology. The company’s school-based programs allow schools to purchase a scheduled service plan with a designated InSight provider or team of providers.
- MeMD is a telehealth company that can work directly with schools or parents to provide support to students ages 10-17 for a 25- or 50-minute session with a therapist.
- Global Partnership for Telehealth works to provide virtual mental health services to students and currently supports children in over 200 schools all over the South.
A more extensive list of teletherapy providers that serve your region can be searched via the University of Arizona’s comprehensive directory.
While we do not know how long this pandemic will keep schools shuttered, in the interim, schools can utilize teletherapy to virtually support students’ mental health needs.