As we’ve all come to learn over the past year, Covid-19 is a disease that can cause a wide range of physical maladies, but its mental health effects can also be severe. For example, the sky-high stress levels experienced by frontline health care workers can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, panic attacks and even conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.
IMCS Group, a St. Petersburg company that specializes in mental health treatment for workers who’ve been injured on the job, is determined to help lessen the mental and emotional harm for people who’ve been directly or indirectly affected by Covid-19. In December, it launched a pilot program called Covid Rebound on a limited scale, and rolled it out nationwide this week.
IMCS Group CEO Lori Daugherty, speaking with the Catalyst, said the service has been offered to more than 300 workers in 17 states so far via health insurance carriers and third-party health plan administrators. She expects the uptake to grow exponentially along with awareness of the long-term mental and emotional toll that the pandemic has taken on people from all walks of life.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Daugherty said, “but based on everything that I read from those who are in the medical community and following this, the effects of Covid are going to be with us for years and years to come.”
Stress and anxiety, Daugherty said, go hand-in-hand with physical ailments in that they can make it more difficult for the body to make a speedy recovery. That’s especially true for Covid-19, which has symptoms that can linger for weeks and months, causing all manner of mental and emotional anguish.
“We’re seeing increased stress levels across the country,” she said. “Our programs are designed to appropriately, quickly and successfully get that injured worker back to the workplace.” When that happens, she added, it creates savings in the “overall cost of the health care component of workers’ comp.”
In addition to rolling out Covid Rebound, IMCS Group — which boasts a network of more than 1,500 psychologists and psychiatrists nationwide — has also had to change the way it operates. Prior to the pandemic, almost all of its counseling appointments were done in person. Today, Daugherty said, nearly all sessions are conducted online. “We are 98 percent telehealth,” she said, “and I don’t see our industry turning back in the foreseeable future. Tele-behavioral health is the wave of the future.”
Feelings of guilt that stem from asymptomatic transmission of the coronavirus are another common problem that IMCS Group therapists treat. She uses the example of “a frontline, essential worker who brought Covid into their home and a loved one either [died] or became very ill as a result of being infected by that individual. The guilt, stress and anxiety that those people suffer is real.”
According to IMCS Group’s data, 92 percent of patients who use its telehealth services are able to return to work after an average of five sessions, and 93 percent of discharged patients achieved clinically meaningful reductions in anxiety and stress.
Daugherty said Covid Rebound has also been good for business, so much so that IMCS Group needs to staff up to meet demand. It recently hired Aimee Peters to fill the role of chief clinical innovations officer but it also seeks to hire additional case coordinators and a vice president of operations.
“We are in expansion mode, definitely,” Daugherty said.