Health

SC Department of Mental Health expands telemedicine program

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) - The Department of Mental Health serves more than 100,000 citizens with mental illnesses, but getting services to those clients isn't always easy.

The department received $600,000 to expand its telehealth program, which allows the department to offer mental health services to patients no matter where they are in the state.

"It's a national issue, for psychiatric patients who present themselves in an emergency setting in a hospital or emergency room and that hospital doesn't have access to a psychiatrist, " said Mark Binkley the Deputy Director of Community Mental Health Services

Patients would wait for days to speak to a psychiatrist, but telemedicine is helping prevent those problems by allowing patients to meet with doctors even if they're out of town.

Binkley explained how it all works: "The patient would be at the clinic with a therapist and they would be able to video conference with a psychiatrist who is in a different city."

The department received a series of grants from the Duke Endowment totaling more than $10 million to make this all possible and now with this additional boos the department will be able to have more providers available for video conferencing." 

"There's not enough of any health care professionals to go around..doesn't matter if its mental or physical health there's a doctor shortage there's a nurse shortage of counselors shortage of social workers," Binkley added.

Right now, the department has its telemedicine program in 24 hospitals in the state as well as 60 mental health clinics. 

By November, the department will have completed 100,000 psychiatric services via telehealth video calls.


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