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Improved Rural Mental Health Services for Children Available Through Tele-Psychiatry

July 1st, 2016

Children who live in rural areas where psychiatric care is difficult or impossible to access can now take advantage of better rural mental health services through tele-psychiatry. This therapy is video based and it can play a vital role for children who fall into a treatment gap. University of Missouri-Columbia researchers determined that most individuals who choose to utilize tele-psychiatry typically come from under served, rural, or remote areas where traditional services are not available on a wide scale. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that only 20% of kids who have behavioral issues ever receive any type of mental health treatment. That is only 1 in 5. The other 80% fall through the cracks in the current mental health care system. Some obstacles to care can include financial hardship and a lack of suitable transportation.

According to University of Missouri School of Medicine assistant research professor of telemedicine and lead study author Mirna Becevic, Ph.D. the study underscores the need for tele-psychiatry services in order to reach children and adolescents who may need mental health treatment but who live in rural areas. Becevic explained “One of the biggest health care issues we as a nation face is a physician shortage in pediatric and adolescent behavioral health. Not surprisingly, the majority of Missouri physicians are located in urban areas along Interstate 70. Although there are child and adolescent psychiatrists in other areas of the state, many rural counties have none.”

Becevic went on to state “Our findings indicate that there is limited access to child and adolescent psychiatric services in our state. More important, our study illustrates how remote populations have severe barriers to access. The mental health shortage, especially in rural areas, is not a new discovery. However, this study highlights the severity of the need for mental health services in our state, especially for children and adolescents.”

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