From there to here........
On my 37th birthday my son Miles, who was two at the time, had woken up with a golf ball size lump on his neck. My mother brought him to the pediatrician that morning because I had to work. I had just accepted a new position as a Clinical Supervisor a couple months earlier and while the position was the highest paid position I had held at the time in my career, the trade-off was even less time with, and for my children. I was in the car on my way to work when the doctor’s office called me and told me Miles was going to be admitted into the pediatric oncology floor at the local children’s hospital.We feared it was lymphoma, so a few weeks later when Miles was extended the diagnosis of Atypical Tuberculosis, it was a relief. A month later he was discharged from the hospital with a sizable, but temporary, hole in his neck. If there's a place in this world that changes your perspective on the time you have with your children, it is a pediatric oncology ward. The day Miles was discharged from the hospital I called my employer and resigned so I could be at home with my son while he healed. It was not the first time I had to make a choice between career and family. I graduated with my Masters Degree in Social work in 2004 , I was a single parent. My career in social work consisted of long hours that extended into the evenings and included numerous “side gigs,” to make a sustainable living. Teaching classes at a local university, on-call case management with an insurance
Heading home from surgery
company, paid speaking engagements, facilitating professional development courses, moonlighting as a clinical supervisor, all left less and less time with and for my children. Putting food on the table and a roof over our heads was necessary, having time with my children was a luxury. Social workers are one of the largest groups of professional mental health and substance use service providers in the US. Eighty percent of social workers are women. The national median salary for a Master of Social Work is around $20k/year less than individuals with the same level of education and experience in nearly every other profession in the US. On top of the salary gap for this female dominated workforce, social workers are expected to work long and typically non-traditional hours, in often unsafe working conditions, are consistently exposed to vicarious and secondary trauma, experience wage freezes in the non-profit sector and have little to no control over their hours. In one of the positions I held early on in the field the productivity standard I had to achieve in order to receive up to a 3% raise at the end of the year, required me to provide 36 hours of face to face contact each week, which in an “in-office,” setting is no big deal. However that particular position was a community based position where I was serving clients throughout a county that spanned 836 square miles.
Shortly after leaving my job, to be home with my son, I was hired by a company that licensed an online platform to clinicians who were able to give them up to 10 hours of therapy sessions a week. It was very part time, but it was something. I cherished the time I had with and for my children during that time I was home. Nine months later, Miles was all healed up so I returned to work with a semi private practice. It actually was my dream job but I was miserable. My life went back to not having any time for my family. The telehealth seed had been planted in my head and I started following telehealth laws and writing a business plan to create a better way for myself and others. In September of 2016, just a few months after Michigan expanded telehealth to include social workers I left my practice and opened the first telebehavioral health practice in Michigan. I started the company on my own with no investment, other than my own “sweat equity.” I saw telehealth as a way to reduce overhead costs which allowed for higher wages, more flexible work hours and less risk and I wanted to share that opportunity with other social workers. I carried a low volume of patients and scrapped by financially so I could build the practice in a way that felt very much like I was building a sand castle, one grain of sand at a time.
Miles and I
Telebehavioral Health.US was one of the first providers in the country to adopt what is a nationally supported direct to consumer care model using a Video Telecommunications Platform, to provide the same service I provided in my office for years, aka "telehealth." It took me four years to build the practice to the point where we were ready to grow. In 2019, Steve Rotary, our COO, and Corey Hart, our CMO, partnered up with me as “sweat equity” co-founders.
In January of 2020 the practice was in-network with over 25 payers in four states including medicare and medicaid. We were finally ready to start scaling just before the pandemic hit. In response to the pandemic we decided to commit to on-boarding as many clinicians as we could without compromising clinical care. We saw the increase in risk to the workforce and to those in need of mental health services. We made a commitment to help stabilize the workforce, by offering clinicians opportunities to practice online with an established and branded telehealth organization which would in turn increase access to those in need. We announced we would be hiring the first week of the nation wide shut-down and within three weeks we had 50 resumes. In the spring of 2020 we accomplished more growth than most practices accomplish in their first couple years of operation. As of today, Telebehavioral Health.US has 25 therapists, a Psychiatrist and a Nurse Practitioner and is providing services in five states. All of our services are covered by insurance including Medicare and Medicaid.
All of our services are covered by insurance including Medicare and Medicaid. We are, the only Telebehavioral Health Provider registered with the System for Award Management for Federal contracting that is eligible for federal contracts including disaster relief contracts and we are a certified Woman-Owned Small Business with the Small Business Administration.We have created programming for Seniors in CA, called “Art for the Young at Heart,” which is an online mindfulness based therapeutic art class for Senior Citizens and is in part funded by the California Arts Council. We are in the process of creating peer coaching models for First Responders, LGBTQ individuals, teens and other at risk populations. We have created group and EAP contracts that include services specifically for caregivers with special programming and services for residents, staff and family of nursing homes and senior care facilities. We have added a medication and wellness program and continued to build on our direct to consumer services by increasing our clinical capacity for individuals as well as group therapy services and expanded our network of clinicians to the State of Pennsylvania. Just a few weeks ago we were incorporated as a Delaware Corporation and are in the process of becoming credentialed as a facility so we can start offering case management, peer coaching and a continuum of other services. Over the next month we are going to be starting the process of accreditation with the Joint Commission's new Telemedicine Accreditation.
We are growing every day to further our mission of providing affordable, accessible, and evidence based behavioral health treatment to individuals throughout the United States.
Susie Morozowich, LMSW, LCSW
Founder & CEO/Clinician