Telehealth use doubles for people seeking drug addiction counseling services

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – The federal government reported that 1,700 people in South Carolina died of a drug overdoses in 2020 but experts said telehealth is proving to be a helping hand for those facing addiction.

Counselors at the Phoenix Center in Greenville said the amount of people utilizing their telehealth option for addiction counseling at their facility has doubled since 2020. Last year, 400 people were meeting with their counselors virtually and this year that number has risen to over 800 people.

Healthcare groups began offering telehealth services during the pandemic and ramped up their outreach efforts. 

Many feared economic factors — such as job loss and eviction, and social factors such as increased isolation— would trigger more people to use drugs and possibly overdose.

Michael McLain, director of local provider relations at The Phoenix Center said traditional counseling sessions happen in group settings to provide people with support and social connection encouragement. During the pandemic, in-person group sessions were put on hold until groups were able to meet via telehealth. 

“Anything that expands access to care is good,”  McLain said. “Telehealth has really increased access and allowed people to take that first step towards counseling when they would have been apprehensive to do that in person.”

McLain said there are several benefits of telehealth, a few benefits include: 

  • Smaller group sizes
  • More individual sessions
  • Increased access, from home to care with counselors, doctors

Overall, individual sessions at The Phoenix Center have quadrupled over the last year. As more people seek help, the convenience that telehealth offers fits into the schedules of many busy South Carolinans and gives people with transportation barriers access to care.

“We’re a pretty large county [Greenville] and so people who may have had to drive from Marietta, Travelers Rest, Greer or Simpsonville can now access their counselor from home. Even on their lunch break at work. We’ve had people on vacation that would call in to see their counselors through telehealth,” McLain.

According to McLain, virtual healthcare has it’s challenges, a few include:

  • Internet Access, stable connections, etc.
  • Protecting confidentiality (others in home, have private space to do your sessions when at home, or other places.
  • Some people may not have a laptop/smartphone or feel comfortable with online services such as Zoom groups, etc.

Healthcare advocates across the nation are pushing for telehealth services to be more widely covered by medicaid and private insurance companies.

For more information on the Phoenix Center and available services, click here. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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