Intensive Mental Health Care Through a Surging Pandemic

Written by Melissa Maranzano, MA

When the COVID 19 outbreak hit New Jersey in March 2020, mental health providers had to scramble to learn virtual platforms, establish procedures and protocols, and get immediately up and running so no patient was left behind. The clients of Innerspace Counseling and other intensive mental health facilities generally have difficulty functioning at home or in school or have emotional and/or behavioral concerns. Patients diagnoses range from bipolar and schizophrenia to anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Not only would it be unethical to leave patients at this level of care without treatment during this crisis, but it would have created a flood of psychiatric emergencies at ER’s and hospitals across the state who were already overwhelmed with COVID 19 patients.

Innerspace Counseling was at the forefront of the abrupt shift to teletherapy. Our Founder & Program Director Ajita Shah, MA, LPC, NCC, ACS and our Board-Certified Psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Platt, D.O., advocated with New Jersey Assemblyman Ronald Dancer for an amendment to NJ Bill A3680. While the bill supported telehealth for outpatient providers, it was not supporting it for some of the state’s most acute psychiatric patients. The amendment extended the telehealth expansion to higher levels of care, allowing Intensive Outpatient and Partial Care Programs to conduct services via telehealth platforms and requiring insurance companies to cover it.

How is this working? Amazingly well. These levels of care were not designed for telehealth; however, it is working and effective. With stringent protocols for both clinicians and patients, we are successfully treating clients with no compromise to quality of care. In fact, the satisfaction rate of our clinical team during this pandemic has been at 98%. While we look forward to returning to our office for in person treatment, patients and staff have transitioned well. Client engagement has improved and attendance is averaging 95%. The number of clients in treatment has increased since the start of the year, a testament to both the success of our programs as well as the great need for our services during this time.

We are now in the midst of another surge of COVID 19. Thankfully, this time we are prepared. We are already working remotely and have added clinicians to handle the influx of new clients. What we are bracing for though, is the increase of acuity in new and current clients due to concerns over this new surge of coronavirus cases. The turmoil of 2020 is wearing on us all. We will continue to meet our clients where they are and through our caring and empowering approach to treatment, get them on the road toward long term success and balance.

This crisis has proven the tenacity, resiliency, and ingenuity of not only our Innerspace team, but many of our mental health partners throughout the state. We came together to create new programs and protocols in a matter of weeks and continue to meet the needs of our community in an ongoing and ever-changing crisis. It is truly exceptional. Innerspace Counseling is proud to be a leader within New Jersey’s mental health community and strives to provide exceptional care and service to our patients and their families. Our staff will continue to advocate for the mental health needs of our community so that we get through this crisis together.

If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, reach out to Innerspace Counseling at 732-332-8270 to request a consult.