After teaching during a pandemic and one of the most active hurricane seasons ever recorded, Louisiana teachers will soon receive free mental health virtual therapy visits thanks to a partnership between the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) and Ochsner Heath, according to this press release from the Louisiana Department of Education.
This partnership will offer four free virtual therapy visits to over 160,000 public school educators and support staff across the state, where they can connect with licensed mental and behavioral health providers through a secure virtual platform. The visits will be accessible through participants’ smartphones, tablets, and computers, and they can be booked after individuals browse profiles of healthcare providers and choose a clinician who best supports and serves their particular needs.
The four virtual visits will be available to Louisiana public school teachers and support staff at all K-12th grade school systems and early child care centers that serve children from birth to age four, including all traditional Louisiana public and public charter schools. After the four initial visits are booked and completed, participants can choose to continue their sessions by booking new ones at a discounted rate.
State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley said of the state’s educators, “Louisiana educators have done hero’s work through a pandemic and one of the most active hurricane seasons on record for our state. They have been there for our children and families during this stressful year, and this partnership with Ochsner is one way we can be there for them.”
According to a survey published in August 2020 by The Hechinger Report, approximately 40 percent of surveyed Louisiana early childhood educators reported clinically relevant signs of depression, likely caused by not only personal problems but also the uncertainties of the upcoming school year as a result of the Covid-19 landscape.
The initiative to offer virtual mental health services from Ochsner Health to the state’s educators is a part of a three year, a million-dollar initiative that’s funded by the LDOE’s allocated funds from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) to adequately respond to the health needs (both mental and behavioral) experienced as a result of the pandemic.
Governor John Bel Edwards said of the initiative, “It is critically important that the state provide mental and emotional support for our teachers and support staffs who unselfishly give so much of themselves to ensure that education continues for our students during this unprecedented pandemic. The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) is being used to fund the partnership between the Louisiana Department of Education and Ochsner, and I’m grateful that we are able to support our education workforce.”
Qualifying educators and support staff unfamiliar with virtual therapy visits will be surprised by how much they resemble in-person office visits and also be thankful for their convenience. When joining a secure video conference call with their selected, licensed provider, patients will be first asked about the medical history, current symptoms, and goals for therapy. Taking in this information, the provider will assess the situation and then develop and recommend a treatment plan. The visit is a part of Ochsner Health’s Anywhere Care, a private, secure, HIPAA-compliant tool that enables patients to consult online with a provider safely and confidently.
After a whirlwind year of uncertainty, confusion, and unfamiliarity, it’s helpful to know that the state Department of Education is supporting the mental health of its teachers. Ochsner Heath’s Vice President of Telemedicine, April Radford said, “We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges to educators – both frontline teachers and administrative staff.”
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