Aug. 04, 2020

HARRISBURG – In her position as a member of the House Human Services Committee, Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) recently participated in an informational meeting conducted by the committee that examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health and well-being of Pennsylvania residents and how the mental health community is addressing those needs – particularly in rural areas.

Representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, doctors of psychiatry and county and private mental health services providers throughout the Commonwealth testified about rising levels of financial distress, anxiety, depression, insomnia and unresolved grief during the pandemic. They said isolation caused by the statewide shutdown and stay-at-home orders has contributed to an increase in substance abuse and relapse, despair and thoughts of suicide. Children are also experiencing fear, nightmares, anxiety and regressive behavior such as bed wetting.

“We learned that telehealth, which enables doctors to consult with patients over the phone, computer or tablet, has been particularly helpful in cases where patients fear leaving home and risking exposure to COVID-19,” said Toohil. “However, access to technology is an issue that must be addressed for telehealth to be widely available in rural areas of the Commonwealth.”

Paul Denault, president of Northern Tier Consulting, testified that telehealth has many advantages, but he said it is not very effective in engaging children, particularly children with autism, or adults with substance abuse issues. “Couples counseling? Forget it,” he said, “We cannot assess for safety.”

“My committee colleagues and I will continue exploring these issues to come up with legislative solutions,” added Toohil.

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Representative Tarah Toohil
116th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office
717-260-6136 /