OSF HealthCare launches free digital mental health service

PEORIA — Mental health resources are becoming more available in the Peoria area thanks to an OSF HealthCare collaboration.
A digital tool called SilverCloud launched open enrollment last month, giving free access to adults in the OSF service region even if they are not OSF patients.

“Our goal ultimately is not only supporting those we serve, but it is certainly the health of our population and that’s why the open enrollment is there. We really want anybody,” said Cheryl Crowe, director of behavioral health services at OSF. “There is such a great need for behavioral health resources. We want people to access whatever tools they can.”

To bring SilverCloud to Peoria, the OSF Innovation Team partnered with Enterprise Ireland, a government organization that focuses on development and growth between Irish projects and the global market. In April, representatives from the company toured Jump Simulation and Education Center, where OSF and the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria perform their own research and innovation.

This tool offers an evidence-based approach to assisting patients in managing these emotional and behavioral concerns, said Luke Raymond, manager of behavioral health services at OSF.

“SilverCloud really stood out because of how well vetted it was,” Crowe said. “There’s a lot of research around this product, which is a problem in a lot of the behavioral health apps. Not a lot of them have longevity, so they don’t have a lot of research to support them — this one did.”

SilverCloud access in the Peoria area is broken down into four categories: anxiety, depression, stress and the combination of anxiety and depression. With a computer, tablet or phone, users can work their way through the program at their own pace to “make space for a healthier mind.”

“They’re able to employ and utilize all of the tools that they would use in patient face-to-face cognitive behavioral therapy session that they would have with a therapist, but they can do it at home on their own time and be connected to a supporter if they need further assistance,” Raymond said.

The interactive program takes users through exercises such as guided relaxation, stress management and thought-feeling behavior matching, he said. It also uses audio and video clips to engage users.

While this tool is not designed to replace traditional cognitive behavioral therapy, it can be useful for those who are waiting for access to traditional therapy or as after-care for those who recently finished treatment. SilverCloud can also augment in-person counseling, Crowe and Raymond said.

“There’s such a shortage of qualified mental health professionals across the nation, and certainly at OSF, we’re not immune to that issue,” Raymond said. SilverCloud can decrease the demand for in-person counselors.

However, this tool is not crisis intervention service, and users have to acknowledge that when consenting to use the program.

“If the patient is in crisis, the tool directs them to access the crisis intervention services and resources that are available,” Raymond said. “It would be able to connect them to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, for example, if they’re having those kinds of concerns.”

Users are also paired with supporters who work as behavioral health navigators. These supporters check in on users, review their progress and offer help if needed.

Analytical feedback from the program suggests SilverCloud is working just as well as traditional methods, Raymond said.

“In basic terms, the users who use this tool get better at about the same rate as folks who go to traditional face-to-face (cognitive) therapy do,” he said.

Since OSF launched the self-enrollment option, users don’t need a referral from a primary care physician or behavioral health provider, Raymond said. Instead, they can sign up online, register and begin the program, free of charge. Once registered from a browser, users can also download the free app for iOS or Android.

“One is one of our primary goals at OSF Behavioral Health is to improve access, make services easier to obtain for patients so having this is as an open enrollment option really serves that goal,” Raymond said.

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