ROXBURY (CBS) - A recent study finds roughly a third of people in Massachusetts report needing mental health help during the pandemic, and a fourth of them say they could not find it.
The results of the study done by Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts are not surprising for psychologists at Boston Medical Center.
"I don't think we have ever seen rates of mental issues and substance abuse issues as we've seen right now," said Cara Fuchs, chief of psychology at Boston Medical Center.
In the fall of 2021, BMC received a grant to help tackle the problem, receiving money to help promote a telehealth system in partnership with community outreach organizations.
That's where Can We Talk comes in. The non-profit was founded by former WBZ-TV anchor Rev. Liz Walker and seeks to provide various free health services to communities that otherwise might go without. It was the perfect partner for BMC.
"Members of the community could come and connect with a clinician that was based at BMC and do so in an environment that felt safe, familiar and where there would be privacy and access to the technology that they may have lacked," said Fuchs.
Can We Talk works with thousands of people a year through a mixture of group and private sessions but started offering robust telehealth services when BMC reached out during the pandemic.
"Throughout my life, I felt like I have experienced every bad thing." Kilra Hylton is one of the people participating in telehealth for the first time. "I was a teenage mom, I was homeless, I have been a victim of domestic violence, and in 2015, my son was murdered."
Hylton attended support groups following her son's death but didn't seek virtual therapy until it was presented during the pandemic.
"At first I thought it was weird," said Hylton. "Even at my first doctor's appointment, I was like, 'You can't touch me. How can you diagnose me from a computer?'"
Hylton said she would have never sought out a therapist on her own, adding, "I feel like you're more vulnerable when you're not in person. You can be more open."
Hylton has been paired with BMC's Elizabeth Louis.
The psychologist said she specifically chose this type of telehealth program to work for because of its goal to reach communities that often go under-resourced.
"Having those one-to-one therapeutic sessions have been very helpful for them," said Louis. "To name what they have been experiencing and also share the ways they have been able to adapt and survive."
Can We Talk is planning to resume its Thursday night in-person meetings in March while continuing to provide the telehealth partnership with BMC.
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