Big Bend area expands telehealth services amid coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 7:00 PM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 19:00:39-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — As COVID-19 takes lives across the country, telehealth is saving lives in the Big Bend area and helping you rebound.

One local patient says she doesn't know where she'd be without the video chats making counseling accessible, safe and convenient.

Jenny Cummings is from the Crawfordville area.

"It's helped me tremendously," said Cummings.

She depends on behavioral health services offered through family intensive treatment or FIT. It's a program designed to encourage parental behavior change related to substance use and mental health.

Before the pandemic, Cummings met with behavioral health experts in person. Now, she does it via Zoom video chat.

"Honestly, I didn't know about it until the pandemic," Cummings said.

It helps her keep connected as she works to be the best mom she can be. Cummings said without this technology, she would be in a really bad place.

Melanie Brown-Woofter is president and CEO of the Florida Behavioral Health Association.

"Folks are not alone," said Brown-Woofter. "We are here for you."

FBHA works with providers across the state to keep clients connected through telehealth.

"You can do one-on-one with counselors," Brown-Woofter said. "You can do a group. We have recovery efforts so you don't have to leave your home."

While they're working on addressing internet connectivity issues in parts of the state and data limits with cell service providers, FBHA says they've seen an increase in patient engagement of about 60 percent, despite the pandemic.

"We are very pleased with what's happened," said Brown-Woofter. "We're here for folks, and we're hear for those who need it.

Folks like Cummings, who say they plan to keep using it, even as pandemic restrictions relax.

"All it could do is help you," Cummings said.

FBHA has a whole section of resources and phone numbers to call if you need help with mental health, available by clicking here.