There aren't many appointments out there right now as far as I can tell. People are calling multiple times every day trying to get in. Case managers are calling lists of providers looking for appointments. Insurance companies are calling directly asking for the first available. Nothing but waitlists......
Historically, access to mental health care in Virginia has been a challenge. Add a pandemic and you have reached (quite possibly) the definition of impossible. Is anyone finding it exceedingly difficult to get an appointment? With the right therapist? For the right client age? That accepts the right insurance? That lives in the right town? Experienced in the right specialty?
The whole point of Telehealth was to increase access. Now everyone is doing telehealth and our access issues continue as the demand for services exceeds the number of clinicians.
There are some strategies though to reduce some of this burden....
YOU CAN GET IN!
Look on the back of your card and call member services. Ask the following.....
1. Does this insurance plan cover telehealth outpatient mental health visits? If so, what is your cost sharing responsibility and does your costs apply to telehealth appointments?
2. What is your co-pay amount for outpatient mental health telehealth visits.
3. Ask for a list of in network therapists and get their phone numbers, addresses, and whether they are doing telehealth or in-person.
1. Call every provider given to you by your insurance company.
2. Do a Psychology Today, Black Girl Therapy and/or Therapy Tribe Directory searches. Add the filter of your insurance company and any other filters that may apply to narrow down your search. If you want to increase the likelihood of getting in sooner, search statewide.
3. Start calling: First ask if the practice is accepting new patients. If yes, ask if they accept your insurance. If yes, ask if they are doing telehealth or in-person. Schedule.
If the practice is not accepting new patients, ask if they have a waitlist. If yes, add your name to it and ask for a call when they have an appointment available. Put an asterisk next to this practice so you know you are waitlisted here.
4. Expect to make many, many, many calls. Get on as many waitlists as you can. Keep track of the names and numbers of these places. Call them back once per week to express continued interest in receiving services. At some point, you are going to get a call from one of them to schedule. If others call later and you have already gotten scheduled, that's okay, you can just let whomever calls know at that time that you no longer need an appointment. They will just take you off their list and proceed to the next person.
If you are in need of medication to alleviate symptoms, please schedule with your PCP. PCP's can prescribe many psychotropic medications, especially if they know that you are actively seeking an appointment with a psychiatrist. Plan for an appointment with a psychiatrist to take approximately 4 - 6 months, longer for children. There is a shortage of psychiatrists in Virginia.
More on appointments with psychiatrists (which probably should be a whole post all by itself): when you finally get that appointment with the psychiatrist, take a list of questions you need answered. Eliminate all idle chitchat and social pleasantries. The appointment will be time limited and will focus on your symptoms, previous history and side effects. Psychiatry and medication management is not therapy! So, don't expect a lot of discussion about your current life situation outside of your current ability to function and ongoing symptoms.
There is a lot to say about access to mental health treatment. Here at OCSV, we are committed to helping anyone access treatment regardless of whether you are able to to schedule an appointment with us or not. We will refer you to any clinicians or practice that would be appropriate for you or might be in network. We will call you back when you leave a message or send an email. And if we speak to you directly we will give you some coaching on how to get an appointment effectively and efficiently to eliminate as much frustration as possible. If you have any questions or need help, reach out. And if you found this post helpful, please share it around because there are lot of frustrated and hurting people out there that haven't been able to get in. Some of them have even given up trying. Tell them, don't give up.
Trust and Perseverance,