Help is just a phone call awayComments: 0 comments
The NC Professionals Health Program (NCPHP) is best known for its work addressing alcohol and substance use among licensed medical professionals, but it is also an invaluable resource for individuals struggling with anxiety and depression, including suicidal thoughts. In this short feature, Jordan outlines the process of self-referring to NCPHP. Of course, NCPHP is just one resource. Licensees are free to work with any provider or organization they feel meets their needs.
Step 1. The first thing a physician or physician assistant who is ready to seek help should do is call NCPHP at 919-870-4480. Calls made during business hours will be answered by the NCPHP reception desk, while after hours calls will be answered by an on-call clinical staff person. Callers should simply say they are interested in getting help. “One of the first things we are going to say to them is, ‘You are not alone,’” Jordan says. “One in five people in America is dealing with depression at any given time and those numbers were before what we have all collectively experienced this year. You do not need to worry about being judged or whether you are going to get compassion and understanding.”
Step 2. NCPHP will schedule a consultation with the person seeking help, within 24-48 hours if needed. NCPHP can see patients in person in Raleigh or Asheville or can arrange a virtual consultation (new since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic). At the end of the consultation and if appropriate, the patient will have a personalized recommendation for treatment and a referral to a mental health professional in their geographic area – one with experience working with licensed medical professionals. “What we do is help that person figure out their next steps and develop an action plan,” says Jordan. What’s more, the service is free. Initial consultations and referrals are always provided at no charge.
Step 3. Start working with the local mental health professional recommended by NCPHP. If that person isn’t a good fit, NCPHP can work with the patient until a suitable match is found. “We will work with someone until they have an appropriate referral,” says Jordan.
The vast majority of NCMB licensees who self-refer to NCPHP can keep their mental health issues private and begin treatment for depression without notifying the Medical Board.
The only exceptions are when a medical professional’s behavior put patients at risk. For example, if depression symptoms are so severe the provider is ignoring pages or failing to respond to patient emergencies, NCPHP may determine that NCMB must be notified in order to ensure patient safety.