October 14, 2021

Breaking down barriers to better mental health

KP members have many options for getting the support they need from compassionate doctors focused on building meaningful connections.

Jahnte Sowell, KP Colorado member, talks about his mental health care provided by Sammie Moss, MD, psychiatrist.

Jahnte Sowell and his psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente, Sammie Moss, MD, had built a strong connection through 3 years of therapy while Sowell lived in Denver. Then Sowell moved an hour away to Brighton, Colorado. He said he worried the distance would force him to start all over with a new therapist.

Starting over can be a challenge in any situation, but for Sowell, there was an additional connection to Dr. Moss — they are both Black men. “It was easier for me to relate to him and for him to understand that some of the issues and some of the anxiety I have are valid,” Sowell said. “He understood exactly what I was going through and gave me a lot of tools to help me cope with the anxiety.”

Research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Mental Health America shows that those who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color are less likely to seek mental health services and to receive necessary care.

“There are not a lot of psychiatrists in the country who are Black, much less in Colorado,” Dr. Moss said. “I feel it’s important to be here.”

Sowell was able to continue his treatment, uninterrupted, with Dr. Moss, through Kaiser Permanente’s many telehealth options.

“It was a huge relief to know that I could schedule a video conference with Dr. Moss and not skip a beat,” Sowell said. “The mobile app allows me to speak with him in private, wherever I want to.”

Scheduled video visits, an example of Kaiser Permanente’s telehealth options, are just one way members can connect with mental health specialists in Colorado. They can also talk with a specialist via online chat, phone visits, email, and video visits.

“It's catered to my lifestyle,” Sowell says. “There have been times when I've been in my office and had a video conference with him. I've been in my vehicle and pulled off to the side of the road and had a video conference with him.”

Telehealth also removes potential obstacles to care unrelated to geographical distance or busy lives. Patients are less likely to cancel virtual appointments, Dr. Moss said, and it helps reduce some of the worry associated with walking into a psychiatrist’s office. “For somebody who’s wanting to get help, it makes it a little easier for them to take that next step.”

Surprisingly, most patients in need don’t go immediately to a mental health professional. Instead, they go directly to their personal doctor. This is why behavioral health specialists work on-site in most Kaiser Permanente medical offices in Colorado. Patients can have a discussion about their mental health needs with their personal doctor and that physician can quickly consult in-person with the on-site mental health specialist to assess and address the members’ immediate mental health needs and even schedule future treatment for ongoing support. All of this can happen without a referral.

Sowell’s needs were met by Dr. Moss and now, he’s thriving. “I am present. I am more active. I am an involved father,” he said. “My overall life experience has dramatically changed for the better.”