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Mosaic's 'teletherapy' efforts featured on CBS News

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North Riverdale found itself at the center of a report on "CBS Sunday Morning" over the weekend, highlighting the new "teletherapy" services of Mosaic Mental Health.

CBS News reporter Susan Spencer talked to Mosaic executive director Donna Demetri Friedman as well as mental health counselor Kathryn Riordan and patient Teresa Brown about how Mosaic's counseling services shifted from in-person at its 5676 Riverdale Ave., offices, to over the phone, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The stakes are very high," Friedman told Spencer. "Some people have major depressive illness, and that's all heightened, of course, in this crisis. We would be seeing people really begin to decompensate." 

Mosaic employs 100 people to help counsel more than 1,000, according to the CBS report — many of the clients low-income who had nowhere else to turn.  The organization — formerly known as Riverdale Mental Health Association — immediately switched over to the telephone model as soon as the state relaxed some of its regulations on counseling to help account for social distancing and stay-at-home orders, part of slowing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

"There was some resistance from the clients, and some resistance from the staff," Friedman said. "How are we going to do this? And how is this going to work?"

Riordan helped make it work, however. She told Spencer she's been working 10 hours a day, six days a week, since the crisis started.  While she's exhausted, and there are indeed some issues when it comes to talking to patients over the phone, Riordan sees this service as a must right now for Mosaic's patients.

"What is lacking is seeing someone's face, to feel what someone brings into a room," Riordan told Spencer. "But I don't know where we would be without it right now, quite frankly. I don't know where we would be without that connection right now."

Spencer cited a study that talked about how prolonged quarantine periods could actually create reactions similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, even among those who might not have sought counseling before the pandemic. Friedman said that makes what they're doing even more important.

"This pandemic didn't get rid of problems that existed prior to it coming along, right?" Friedman said. "So all these stressors that have led people to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and anxiety before this emerged. Now it's just compounded with the world as we know it being shaken up."

To watch the full CBS News report by Susan Spencer, click here

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