Rural communities differ in population density, remoteness from urban areas, and in other cultural, economic, and social characteristics. Generally, the smaller, poorer, and more isolated these communities, the less accessibility there is to high-quality health services. About 54% of the 1.5 million residents in the region are uninsured or enrolled in publicly funded insurance. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has estimated that over 85,000 individuals in the region have a serious mental illness and that well over 100,000 need treatment for alcohol/drug use.
Access to an adequate supply of well-educated, culturally competent, and highly trained physicians in rural areas is essential to deliver quality health care. (AAMC, 2012) It is projected that the United States will face a shortage of nearly 100,000 doctors by 2020, and underserved populations will continue to bear the heaviest burden of both a primary care workforce and specialist shortage. Psychiatry has been identified as one of the specialty areas of greatest need. (Texas HHSC, 2012, p.99). Texas, both urban and rural, has not been spared from this shortage of physicians and specialists including psychiatrists as well as other behavioral health providers.
The goal of Telepsych Services is to expand and enhance the infrastructure necessary to build targeted telemental/telehealth capacity within the Northeast Texas region. Televideo technology can effectively address these limitations of access to behavioral health services in remote or rural areas of the state. The Telepsych Services may include mental health assessments, treatment, education, monitoring, mentoring and collaboration and can connect multiple geographic locations and many different provider types in a variety of settings. Its use can provide direct video access between psychiatrist, patient, and primary care provider as well as with evidence-based counseling protocols.