Olivia Boyce Speaks on Using Telemental Health to Address the Crisis in Montana at Mental Health America’s 2017 Conference

Olivia Boyce, marketing and communications manager at InSight Telepsychiatry, spoke at the Mental Health America (MHA) 2017 Annual Conference held in Washington, D.C. She discussed the mental health landscape in Montana and presented on an innovative program that the MHA of Montana Chapter is using to bring increased access to mental health care to this underserved state.

The conference theme this year is Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll – all often considered to be controversial topics. MHA challenged attendees and speakers to talk openly about the messy and uneasy truths that accompany mental health, mental illness and addiction in hopes of starting conversations around potential solutions.

As part of the Rocking it On the Local Level breakout group where MHA Affiliate Programs discussed ways that their programs are creating change in local communities, Boyce will be presenting on the telemental health program that her organization and MHA of Montana under executive director Dan Aune, has worked to implement.

Currently in Montana, 1 out of 5 adults are diagnosed with depression and there are 23.8 suicides per 100,000 people – the 3rd highest rate in the U.S (AFSP.org). Boyce explained some of the risk factors that are specific to Montana include geographic isolation, a “man-up” attitude, high use of alcohol, easy access to firearms and a mental health provider shortage (KFF.org). She then went on to explore how direct-to-consumer telemental health can uniquely address some of these challenges.

Direct-to-consumer (D2C) telemental health, also known as telebehavioral health or telepsychiatry, is the delivery of psychiatry, mental or behavioral health care directly to consumers through convenient online video calls.

The idea for the MHA of Montana telemental health program started two years ago at the annual MHA conference when Boyce and Aune, met and brainstormed options for supplementing the mental health services in Montana with telehealth.

InSight and MHA of Montana have worked together to recruit Montana-licensed providers to participate in the program, credential them with Montana insurance payers and get them trained and set up using InSight’s telehealth platform, Inpathy.com. The telemental health program will formally kick off and begin to be promoted to potential consumers across the state later this summer.

About Mental Health America
Mental Health America (MHA) – founded in 1909 – is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans. Their work is driven by a commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all, early identification and intervention for those at risk, integrated care, services, and supports for those who need it, with recovery as the goal. Much of their current work is guided by the Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4) philosophy – that mental health conditions should be treated long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process

About InSight Telepsychiatry
InSight is the leading national telepsychiatry service provider organization with a mission to transform access to behavioral health care through innovative applications of technology. InSight has over 18 years of experience with telepsychiatry and serves hundreds of organizations across the nation with its on-demand, scheduled, connected services and Inpathy divisions. The MHA of Montana telemental health program run through InSight’s direct-to-consumer division called Inpathy.com.

Read the original press release here.

By James Varrell, M.D.

Due to trends in mental health advocacy and growing clinical evidence, people are increasingly recognizing the benefits of psychiatry and behavioral health care. For example, a 2012 study published in Contingencies measured the cost of a single employee’s depression over a two-year period prior to that employee receiving depression treatment and found the cost to the business to be as high as $3,386 per affected employee.

Unfortunately, even with a cultural shift towards addressing mental illness in Lynchburg, employers and families are struggling to get convenient and timely access to care due to a significant shortage of psychiatrists. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are over a million Virginians who experience mental illness and about 300,000 of those illnesses are classified as serious. Even with 930 psychiatrists licensed in Virginia, there simply aren’t enough providers to go around. As a psychiatrist, the demands for services can be overwhelming.

Moreover, because most psychiatrists are concentrated in Virginia’s urban pockets (Northern Virginia, the Richmond metropolitan area and Hampton Roads) many individuals outside of these areas endure long commutes to reach the nearest psychiatrist who has available appointment times. Oftentimes, getting care for oneself or a family member can be off-putting and stressful.

How Telepsychiatry Can Help
Telepsychiatry is a growing and clinically effective way to provide psychiatry, mental and behavioral health care to individuals through online video calls. Telepsychiatry can be used to provide psychiatric evaluations, consultations and treatment to individuals in various settings including outpatient offices, correctional facilities, hospitals, emergency departments, crisis centers or even in homes.

Facility-based telepsychiatry has a decent foothold in the healthcare industry. Today one of telepsychiatry’s newer applications, direct-to-consumer (D2C) telepsychiatry, is quickly becoming popular. D2C telepsychiatry allows providers to give psychiatry, mental and behavioral health care to people directly in their homes or any other private space. This takes away the stress of commuting to and from in-person offices. It also means that the time individuals and their families spend getting care is shortened to only the duration of the session, making it easier to fit into a busy schedule.

An Individual’s Experience with D2C Telepsychiatry
For example, one of my patients, whom I will call Anna, suffers from severe anxiety and depression. As a result of her disorder, Anna struggled to leave her home, and her husband, Rick, often had to take time off of work to accompany her to appointments with her psychiatrist whose office was 50 minutes away.

The stress of her appointments made Anna’s symptoms worse, negatively impacted Rick’s work and put additional strain on their family life.

It was in their search for a better care solution that Anna started to receive psychiatric medication management from me and therapy from one of my colleagues all through telepsychiatry. Anna started to access her sessions from home in the evenings after her children had gone to bed. Using telepsychiatry allowed her to receive treatment independently and the reduced stress of receiving care has empowered her and helped her to better cope with her disorder.

The Benefits of D2C Telepsychiatry

Anna’s experience is one that is shared by many Virginians who struggle to find a convenient psychiatry or behavioral health solution for themselves or their loved ones. Here are some of the many ways people can benefit from D2C telepsychiatry:
• Convenience. People can schedule appointments outside of traditional weekday hours and can easily attend sessions using any computer, tablet or smartphone in any private space with a reliable internet connection.

• Increased access to care. Telepsychiatry expands choices for providers and specialists beyond those who are within driving distance. Any provider nationwide who is licensed in the individual’s state can offer services to them. Practicing online means providers can spend more time treating people instead of traveling between offices.

• High-quality care. With more providers to pick from, people can choose the one who best fits their personality, needs and schedule. Reputable D2C telepsychiatry programs will have their providers trained to deliver telehealth appropriately and effectively.

• Privacy. Telepsychiatry is safe and secure. Some individuals prefer seeking care from the privacy of home without the fear of running into a nosy neighbor in the waiting room.

Not only does this type of treatment make it possible for people like Anna to receive care in a comfortable environment, but it also removes stress from their work and personal relationships. Telepsychiatry improves lives and is an excellent tool for increasing access to psychiatry and behavioral health care in Virginia communities.

Read the original article on the Lynchburg Business Magazine website.