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Behavioral health experts say the "4th wave" of COVID-19 could be the mental health impact of the pandemic

As more people continue to seek mental health services, behavioral health experts warn of a national staffing shortage.

YORK, Pa. — A pandemic, social unrest, financial issues and so much more.

We've been through a lot in the past 6 months.

Because of that, there has been a greater need for mental health services in Pennsylvania.

"The 4th wave of this pandemic is really about mental health because once everyone has gotten through this hump and even when we're back to work and things are back to normal, that's when sometimes reality sets in and people recognize that we're likely not going to go back to the way things were at one time," said Lisa Woods, the director of outpatient services Wellspan Phillhaven for York and Adams counties.

Mental health professionals say late April to early May was when they saw the biggest increase in new patients.

"Once we kind of all recognized we're in this for the long hall, then we started to really see the rise," said Woods.

Even as things reopen, appointments have been pretty consistent at Wellspan Phillhaven.

What has also been consistent is a decrease in mental health professionals.

"There's a national shortage of behavioral health experts, both from a therapy perspective and a psychiatry perspective, so we're not alone in that," said Woods.

Woods said it's likely even more people will leave the field, which isn't ideal during a pandemic.

"There's a large number of psychiatrists who will be retiring, who will be 55 and older age and will be retiring within the next 10 years and those going into the field, the numbers are just nowhere near what will be exiting the field."

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For now, Woods says Phillhaven has been able to handle the load by getting creative and relying on telehealth sessions.

She says those have increased the "show rate" for therapy patients.

Meaning more people are scheduling appointments and actually showing up for them instead of backing out at the last minute.

"I hope we can continue it because there has been a lot of good stuff that has come from it."

Most mental health treatments are covered by insurance and because of the pandemic, most insurance companies are still covering telehealth appointments.

Of course, you'll have to check with your own insurance company to see if that is still the case

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