The following is a summary of “Primary Care: A Critical Stopgap of Mental Health Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic” published in the October 2022 issue of Family Medicine by Jacqueline et al.

The COVID-19 epidemic caused a deepening mental health crisis and drastically reduced access to in-person primary care services. Telemedicine was quickly adopted by primary care, an important supplier of mental health treatments, to meet the growing need for services in this area. In this article, researchers take a look at how primary care providers, such as hospitals, clinics, and community health centers, handled the delivery of mental health services throughout the epidemic.

Green Center gathered information by administering a cross-sectional survey to primary care physicians nationwide. Partners and subscribers helped get the word out about the survey. Chi-square and descriptive statistics were used. About 88% of the 1,472 respondents indicated an increase in patients’ demand for mental health services, and 37% reported an increase in patients’ use of substances. The majority of doctors increased their involvement in mental health support (65%), and (64%) reported using telemedicine to deliver behavioral health treatments. 

Uninsured patients (60%vs 42%, P<.01) or Medicare beneficiaries (45%vs 36%, P<.05) or non-English speakers (67% vs 40%, P<.001) or members of racial or ethnic minorities (58%vs 34%, P<.001)) were more likely to receive care through telephone than insured patients. Primary care has been essential in the fight against the pandemic since it is the primary source of mental health services. When it comes to mental health, some areas may have trouble gaining access to resources, but primary care doctors may help bridge that gap through good connections with their patients and community outreach. Primary care telemedicine, particularly telephone-based services, have been instrumental in expanding access to mental health care for all.