Under the Dome

Telepsychiatry program to bring mental health to counties via technology

More rural areas will get access to mental health providers through video technology in a program Gov. Pat McCrory announced on Friday in Greenville.

Introduced in this session’s budget, this statewide telepsychiatry plan will provide $4 million over two years for East Carolina University to develop a network of providers, and install the infrastructure necessary for counties to administer telepsychiatry – or video counseling.

“It’s kind of like a Skype counseling or something like that,” said Doug Boyd, a spokesman for the ECU School of Medicine. “It’s just the same thing you would do face-to-face but the psychiatrist is in (another county or city).”

Currently, 58 counties qualify federally as Health Professional Shortage Areas, due to a lack of mental health resources. Supporters hope telepsychiatry can bring mental health to rural communities that lack the physical presence of psychiatrists and psychologists.

Mental health must be a priority for the state, said Aldona Wos, the state Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The state is expanding telepsychiatry already practiced at ECU in their Center for Telepsychiatry and e-Behavioral Health and the Albemarle Hospital Foundation Telepsychiatry Project.

The implementation of the program, to be overseen by the DHHS Office of Rural Health and Community Care, will start in January 2014.


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While there is a place for telepsychiatry, it is certainly not "the be all to end all." When someone is newly diagnosed or just coming out of crisis, a human being is much more preferrable over a "skye" therapy session. I can already see this taking over individual personal therapy as it can be done "on the cheap" and over time be the new NC standard for delivery of mental health services. I would caution everyone not to think this is the answer for everyone but for those that have their illness under control, medication compliance, and other supports in place. I have seen this system at work and it is not always what it is cracked up to be. I hope everyone closely monitors outcomes from this type of service.

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