By Rudy Arispe
When Megan sought professional assistance at Innova Recovery, a telehealth trauma treatment program, for her mental health issues, she was skeptical at first at the idea of receiving counseling via her computer and the internet.
But because she lives outside the San Antonio city limits, she decided to give it a try. Now, after five months into the telehealth program, she has given her assessment.
“I think it’s a great program, and it really has made a phenomenal difference,” said Megan, 32, who works in the juvenile justice field. “It’s convenient since I work full time. I don’t know if I would have been able to do in-person, intensive outpatient treatment three times a week. I was out of town for training for work (recently), and I was still able to log in and participate in group sessions.”
“Life or distance and other factors can prevent people from getting treatment,” she said. “Telehealth fills that gap, so those things don’t get in the way.” – Dr. Kasi Howard
Innova Recovery was founded in December 2016 by Dr. Kasi Howard, a psychologist who specializes in trauma, insomnia, anxiety, depression and eating disorders, among other mental illnesses.
“The beauty of Innova is everything we do is done through telehealth, so people can be treated from the comfort of their home,” Dr. Howard said. “A lot of people, especially after they have experienced trauma, are anxious and don’t like leaving the house, or they have hectic work schedules, so now they can receive live treatment through something similar to a secure version of Skype.”
Moreover, Innova Recovery is a treatment program for people suffering from trauma or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). “People usually associate PTSD with war veterans, but individuals who have been sexually or physically abused also have PTSD,” Dr. Howard explained.
“So we have two tracks. One for veterans with PTSD and one for females, who have had what we call ‘relationship trauma.’ They were sexually abused as children or sexually abused or raped as an adult,” she said.
Dr. Howard is proud to share that Innova is a leader in providing mental health treatment through its telehealth services.
“We’re the first program like this in the entire state and the second program like this in the country,” she said. “We’re forging new ground.”
In 2015, Medicare, she added, created an initiative to increase telehealth. “It’s not often used because it’s so new. But they did pass laws saying insurance has to cover live services at the same rate as telehealth. I think mental health is a little behind everything. We want to catch up and get ahead of the curve.”
Dr. Howard has patients throughout Texas, including one in Laredo, so traveling to San Antonio would not be convenient for her. Another has chronic pain and struggles to leave her house.
“Life or distance and other factors can prevent people from getting treatment,” she said. “Telehealth fills that gap, so those things don’t get in the way.”
She also treats many veterans, such as soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Irag and experienced the horrors of war.
“We’re the first program like this in the entire state and the second program like this in the country,” she said. “We’re forging new ground.”- Dr. Kasi Howard
“Many have never had treatment,” Dr. Howard said. “Most of them are humble. They’ll said, ‘The other guy had it worse than me.’ They are divorced, they can’t keep a job, they can’t sleep, and they can’t do crowds.”
Regarding those who have been sexually abused, often times from family members, Dr. Howard said that “a lot of them are rejected by their families and have no support.”
And she wants them to know she and her staff are eager to help them, so they can lead normal, healthy lives again.
Helping others, or rather lending an ear or a shoulder to cry on, appears to have been a calling for Dr. Howard since childhood. She remembers being 8-years-old, when she knew she wanted to be a psychologist.
“I had an elderly neighbor who I used to go visit. She was a nurse,” she recalled. “I told her one day I liked listening to people’s problems. She said, ‘You should be a psychologist.’ ”
After learning to spell “psychologist,” the young Kasi made up her mind about her future career. “I was in a gifted and talented program, and I made a Dear Abby sign with big, glittering letters. Kids could ask me a question, and I would give my second grade ‘expert’ answers to all of them,” she said, laughing.
Incidentally, Innova is Latin for “renewal” and the program’s logo includes an image of the lehua flower native to Hawaii. “They grow best in volcanic ash,” she said. “It’s the idea of beauty from ashes. Horrible things can happen, and then you regrow.”
Innova Recovery treats men and women, 18 and older. For more information, visit www.innovarecoverycenter.com or call (210) 254-3618.