More than 166,000 Educators Statewide Will Have Access to Free Mental Health Virtual Visits
Department of Education (LDOE) is partnering with Ochsner Health to launch a virtual therapy program to provide access to free mental health virtual visits. More than 166,000 public school educators and support staff statewide will have access to free mental health virtual visits through Ochsner Anywhere Care – an established telehealth platform in which patients can connect with a licensed mental/behavioral health provider via a secure video visit from their smartphone, tablet or personal computer.
“Louisiana educators have done hero’s work through a pandemic and one of the most active hurricane seasons on record for our state,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley. “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.”
Educating children and serving families during this unprecedented school year, while simultaneously balancing personal and family needs have taken a toll on Louisiana educators, administrators and school support staff. Nearly 40 percent of early childhood educators in Louisiana responded to a survey reporting clinically relevant signs of depression (Hechinger Report, Aug 2020). The three-year, million-dollar initiative is funded by the LDOE through allocations from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) to be responsive to the mental and behavioral health needs educators may be facing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “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.”
The virtual therapy program for Louisiana educators will cover four virtual therapy visits for Louisiana public school teachers and support staff at all K-12 school systems and early child care centers that serve children from birth to age four. This includes all traditional public and public charter schools. Additional visits beyond the initial four covered by the program will be available at a discounted rate.
“We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges to educators – both frontline teachers and administrative staff,” said April Radford, VP Telemedicine, Ochsner Health. “Teaming up with the Louisiana Department of Education to leverage our established Ochsner Anywhere Care platform helps connect educators with the mental health support they need. We are proud to support educators and this program is just one more way Ochsner is working toward a healthier state by reducing barriers to healthcare by making services affordable, convenient and accessible to all.”
Virtual therapy visits are a convenient option for a variety of appointments, including addressing pandemic-related stress or other behavioral health issues such as grief and loss counseling, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and insomnia. Through the platform, individuals can browse provider profiles and select a clinician that best serves their needs, including searching by language. Convenient appointments are available Monday – Saturdays for participating teachers, and staff. Recurring appointments can be made with the same provider.
An Ochsner Anywhere Care virtual therapy session is similar to an office visit, but from the convenience of home via a secure video appointment with a licensed provider on a computer, smartphone or tablet. During the appointment, patients will be asked about current symptoms, medical history and goals for therapy. Using this information, the provider will assess the situation and recommend a treatment plan. Ochsner Anywhere Care is designed to be a private, secure, HIPAA-compliant tool that enables patients to consult with a provider online safely and confidentially.
Educators who qualify for the program should connect with their local school system for more information, including how to sign up. The program grew out of an initiative of the LDOE’s Office of Equity, Inclusion and Opportunities, led by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kelli Peterson. Providing confidential evidence-based mental support to educators and school support staff aligns with the Department’s belief that educators are valued professionals and that equity matters. This partnership ensures equitable access to such supports for educators. For more information about the Louisiana Department of Education visit www.louisianabelieves.com. To learn more about Ochsner Health, please visit www.ochsner.org.