Increasing rural residents’ access to mental health care
It can be difficult for rural residents to receive mental health counseling. Health care resources are scarce in rural areas, and mental health care can be even more challenging to access due to distance, availability and cost. Through the Texas A&M Telehealth Counseling Clinic, Texas A&M Health Science Center is working to solve these issues.
This April, the Telehealth Counseling Clinic has added Burleson County to its list of areas it provides mental health care. These access points are two of six in the Brazos Valley, and three additional access points are planned for Robertson and Austin counties. Qualified residents can access the telehealth resources for free from their own computers or from two new satellite access points, in the towns of Somerville and Caldwell.
“Mental health care is imperative to overall health care,” said Carly McCord, PhD, clinical assistant professor in the Texas A&M College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and director of Telebehavioral Health. “We’re working to remove as many barriers as possible to mental health care throughout the Brazos Valley and provide a model for the entire state to one day adopt.”
Texas ranks 49th out of 50 states in Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas. That’s nearly 10 million residents of Texas living in shortage areas. Of the 254 counties in Texas, 185 have no psychiatrist.
The Telehealth Counseling Clinic is dedicated to finding solutions to Texans’ mental health care through patient care, research and training. The free services provided by the clinic seek to address the disparities in access to behavioral health care. Services are provided by doctoral-level trainees and licensed psychologist supervisors through the College of Medicine and Texas A&M College of Education and Human Development.
“These access points provide electronic capabilities closer to home for rural residents,” McCord said. “We want to reduce the distance between rural patients and providers as much as possible.”