The Pennsylvania House Human Services Committee recently held a meeting on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted residents’ mental health and well-being. The meeting also examined how mental health providers are addressing residents’ needs.
The meeting included private mental health services providers, doctors of psychiatry, and Pennsylvania Department of Human Services representatives.
Participants testified that Pennsylvanians are experiencing depression, isolation, anxiety, insomnia, financial distress, and unresolved grief as a result of the pandemic. This has caused an increase in substance abuse and relapse and thoughts of suicide. In children, it also has caused nightmares, fear, and regressive behaviors.
Many Pennsylvanians are using telehealth, but it has drawbacks Paul Denault, president of Northern Tier Consulting, testified. Telehealth does not work well for couples counseling, adults with substance abuse issues, and children with autism.
“We learned that telehealth, which enables doctors to consult with patients over the phone, computer or tablet, has been particularly helpful in cases where patients fear leaving home and risking exposure to COVID-19,” Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) said. “However, access to technology is an issue that must be addressed for telehealth to be widely available in rural areas of the Commonwealth.”
The committee will seek to find legislative solutions to health issues, Toohil said.