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Telehealth mental health services at Mountainside

“We have seen an increase in those seeking group therapy and psychiatry for substance abuse and mental health disorders.” — Daniel Smith, Mountainside

NORTH CANAAN — Responding to a surge in individuals seeking treatment for COVID-related stress, fear, anxiety and depression, the Mountainside Treatment Center recently opened a psychiatric outpatient center at its North Canaan facility. 

The new mental health service, which during the pandemic will operate solely through telehealth, has received state approval with the intent of increasing access to services related to the crisis.

“The state was very responsive to our request,” said Andre Basso, Mountainside’s chief operating officer, during a joint conference call on May 4 with Daniel Smith, vice president for strategic operations for the company. 

“We believe that it is important to provide a level of support that we feel is necessary” based on the need not only to the facility’s clients, but to the public as well.

Mountainside, which has operated at the North Canaan site on Route 7 for 22 years, focuses on individualized addiction treatment, including psychiatric services, mental health counseling, family counseling, adolescent services, medication-assisted treatment and other therapies and group supports.

 “We have seen an increase in those seeking group therapy and psychiatry for substance abuse and mental health disorders. With these insights and the needs of our clientele in mind, we have strengthened and diversified our outpatient offerings,” said Smith.

As part of its ongoing series of free virtual meetings, Mountainside is also offering twice-monthly sessions for first responders and health-care workers during the COVID-19 quarantine.  The meetings “offer a virtual safe space for these heroes to gather, share experiences and receive support,” according to the company. The support groups are offered every second and fourth Thursday at 6 p.m.

 “As we all try to navigate this ‘new normal,’ together, we have also been able to collaborate more closely with private practices and individual therapists who have recommitted themselves to supporting clients as demands for mental health assistance continue to grow,” said Smith.

Meanwhile, the company’s detox program remains “open, fully staffed and busy,” according to Randall Dwenger, Mountainside’s chief medical officer. Since the pandemic started, strict protocols have been instituted to safeguard patients, staff and families from COVID-19, including enhancing the pre-admission screening. 

In addition, “All of our outpatient services are now provided virtually, via telehealth.”

Social isolation, economic concerns, job loss, social distancing and the fear of contracting, or spreading, the coronavirus have had a negative psychological impact on most of society, said Basso. “Even if people are not diagnosed with mental health issues, many are having difficulties coping with this strange and difficult situation.”

Individuals who utilize the treatment facility’s new virtual psychiatric outpatient center can pay for the service through their insurance company or through private pay, “which is determined on a sliding scale,” said Smith. “We estimate our new services will reach full capacity soon, based on the response we received from the community.”     

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