New Tele-Therapy Program Offers Virtual Consultations May 19, 2020 (Los Angeles, CA) – In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, The Special Needs Network, one of the nation’s premier autism advocacy organizations, has launched a new telehealth program in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The swiftly developed, HIPPA-compliant program provides virtual evidence-based Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to children, mental health counseling for parents, and a 24-hour Emergency Hotline for marginalized communities throughout California.

A new report from the county’s health department reveals that the coronavirus is having an increasingly disproportionate impact on the poor and communities of color in Los Angeles County. Latinos make up close to half of all COVID-19 cases in the county and suffer the third-highest death rate when adjusted for age, not far below African Americans, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islanders. People who live in high poverty areas of L.A. have died at a rate three times higher than those who live in the wealthiest areas. Despite the toll on poor minority communities, testing for COVID-19 lags that of wealthier communities.

These disparities are coupled with staggering unemployment rates amongst African Americans and Latinos. “Given the enormous toll that this public health crisis is having on vulnerable communities across the county, Special Needs Network’s telehealth autism therapies and mental health counseling could not be timelier,” says Special Needs Network founder and president Areva Martin.

In conjunction with SNN, Ms. Martin is also featuring top experts from across the mental health spectrum on her tri-weekly Facebook show “The Special Report.” Monday’s live show featured mental health expert Paul Gionfriddo, psychotherapist Soco Reynoso, attorney, author, and mental health advocate Corey Minor Smith, and Family and Child Psychologist Dr. Monica Shahbaznia—all of whom dispensed important information and advice on how to cope with mental health issues caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. The show will continue to feature such experts throughout the pandemic.

Special Needs Network has a team of more than 100 trained, experienced, and certified behavior therapists and clinicians delivering high-quality virtual therapy services to children, teens, and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. These virtual therapies are critical as the County of Los Angeles public health officials have extended the stay-at-home order, which was implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The County has stressed that people remain home, except essential workers that provide a range of critical services, including in-home medical health care such as behavior therapy.

“Special Need Network’s new telehealth program will provide the critical care that many people with disabilities and their families need during this COVID-19 crisis and beyond,” says Ms. Martin. Although Special Needs Network continues to provide in-home therapeutic services to families in South LA, the program’s ABA therapy is also available online for youth currently receiving services at home and includes an expansion of therapy hours to address the greater need across California in light of school closures.

Special Needs Network is a Medi-Cal provider, accepts private insurance, and is a regional center vendor. Johanna Erazo, whose son receives ABA therapy through the Special Needs Network, says the program has been key to his child’s development. “My child has been so responsive to his telehealth services. He anticipates his start time and is standing by his laptop waiting for his session to begin. His therapist even joins him virtually during meal breaks and when he goes for walks through a cell phone.”

Mireya Romeo, another parent from the Special Needs Network, has seen exponential growth in her daughter’s behavior. “The Telehealth program has been an amazing experience. My daughter’s communication skills increased. Through the program, she discovered a new passion for coloring on the computer and wants to color all the time on weekends now. I’m happy with how supportive the behavioral team has been for my daughter.”

Each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with mental health or disability illness. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, the Special Needs Network joins the national movement to provide support to some of Los Angeles County’s most vulnerable families.

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