Published: April 28, 2020

Telehealth’s popularity in mental health on upswing


The isolation that comes with Ohio’s stay-at-home order can be harmful to those suffering from mental health and addiction issues, but area providers are adjusting in order to serve patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

Harbor distributed 4,000 tablets to aid patients with connectivity issues to conduct telehealth video conferencing and counseling sessions. CEO John Sheehan said the mental health boards in Lucas and Wood counties came through with special funding for the endeavor.

Mr. Sheehan thinks this new-age approach is a game-changer.

“[The tablets are] loaded with an app to allow the patient to talk to a therapist or psychiatrist, and we can prescribe medication that way,” Mr. Sheehan said. “If it’s a child or an adult, they don’t have to worry about their Buckeye bill or whether they have Internet.”

The tablets are equipped with the My Strength app that allows patients to speak with a therapist and allows Harbor to check in with people on a daily basis if necessary. They are not set up to surf the Internet.

Last month, Harbor moved its entire operation to a tele-platform in accordance with social-distancing rules. About 25 percent of business was already conducted virtually, but Mr. Sheehan thinks an emphasis on remote service is here to stay beyond the current times.

“I think it will become the majority of care provided in the next five years,” he said. “I think it’s better care from a service and cost perspective. You can check on a patient every day. Before, we would send them home after a crisis and then wait another seven days to see them. That seems unnecessary when we can just reach out to them in their homes and get their medication delivered that way.”

He said Harbor is maintaining its level of care, and no-show rates are improving.

A Renewed Mind is carrying out business in a similar fashion, and feedback has been positive. CEO Matt Rizzo said remote group therapy seems to be better for some folks.

“We had to cancel our groups, obviously, because we would have 12 people in a group, and we couldn’t social distance,” Mr. Rizzo said. “We have heard from clients saying they enjoy groups more this way because they feel more open to sharing versus sitting next to someone and sharing intimate details.”

Mr. Rizzo also said patients are reporting feeling more comfortable having a session from their couch instead of coming into a public office.

Social distancing is an added burden to many struggling with mental health issues. Mr. Rizzo said many feel disconnected from society.

“We’ve also seen the family system stretched and stressed,” he said. “Kids are at home, there are parents laid off. When you’re cut off from the movies or a retail store, or don’t have funds, that can turn a household into a very stressful one to manage. We have seen some family systems issues arise. To combat that, we’re offering family counseling and parenting groups.”

Mr. Rizzo said healthy ways to manage stress and anxiety can include exercising, reading, or getting in touch with a person’s spiritual side.

Contact Jay Skebba at,

419-376-9414, or on Twitter @JaySkebba.