Impact of COVID-19 on Demand for Mental Health Services

Jay Weaver, PharmD, MPH, and Mona Chitre, PharmD, CGP, discuss the increased demand for mental health services since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mona Chitre, PharmD, CGP: Demand for mental health services soared during the pandemic. We had so many challenges with how the pandemic impacted daily life, isolation, the way we worked, the way we went to school, and the death and morbidity of the virus itself. We saw increases in mental health requests from the pediatric population all the way up to the geriatric population, which triggered a number of changes within the health plan. We increased access to telemedicine and behavioral health services. We focused on ensuring that our members in our community were aware of their social well-being, their mental health, and their physical health. We’ve seen decreases from the pandemic highs in our mental health requests, but the utilization and requests for mental health services continue to be higher than pre–COVID-19.

Jay Weaver, PharmD, MPH: Within our plan, we saw a surge in the mental health services requests not only from the practitioner side but also for other types of care management and other services related to seeking services for the first time. Sometimes we saw drops in medication adherence despite having more opportunities for refills, people being home, moving people to mail-order pharmacy and those types of things, and trying to push out medications to make sure folks were being cared for with some of the uncertainty around being able to present to a retail pharmacy. We also saw change in the ability of folks to see practitioners within an office. Telehealth became a larger demand in that time as well. We pushed out a number of services so that folks could be cared for in their home for counseling and other psychology services.

Transcript edited for clarity.

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