Mental Health Goes Virtual
Dr. Kyle John, a pediatric psychiatrist and the medical director for vMentalWellness at Mercy Virtual, thinks he’s found a way for kids to get mental health help right away. The key is training a child’s primary care physician to address basic mental health needs. “There just aren’t enough child psychiatrists,” John says, and there also isn’t enough training in pediatric mental health. That’s where Mercy’s vMentalWellness comes in. When pediatric primary care providers need help, they can call a trained provider through Mercy Virtual. “We’re not just giving advice,” John says. “We follow that child along with a primary care doctor, so if we read something in the chart that makes us think that kid needs eyes on them today, we can communicate [with the child via] telemedicine.” Since the program launched in January 2018, John says the team has only communicated directly with a patient through telemedicine five or six times. He credits that low rate with successful training for primary care providers. By April 2018, Mercy primary care providers had reached out to vMentalWellness 615 times, and its online resources had been used 2,732 times. “This enhances a provider’s ability to take care of some of the mental health issues with kids,” John says. “Imagine if your kid had a broken arm and were told they couldn’t get help for six weeks. That would be unacceptable. That’s often what happens in the mental health world.”
Mental Health Care on the Spot
Burrell Behavioral Health has teamed up with Springfield Public Schools, CoxHealth, Mercy Hospital Springfield, Drury University, the Greene County Family Justice Center and Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, all with the goal of improving access to mental health services. In Springfield, Burrell has rolled out its same-day mental health clinic. “We call it the Access Center,” says Matt Lemmon, Director of Communications at Burrell. Located at Burrell’s main Springfield campus, the Access Center provides same-day consultations with a licensed clinical intake specialist. During the previous quarter of 2019 alone, the Access Center served 1,909 individuals. Between 2017 and 2018, the average number of days it took for a patient to receive service dropped from 22.9 to 5.8, which Lemmon says is, “at least partially attributed to the new access model.”
Mental Health Care in the ER
Since 2016, Mercy’s emergency room has seen a 12 percent increase in the number of patients who present behavioral health concerns, says Brent Hubbard, president and COO of Mercy Hospitals Springfield Communities. “That’s 6,000 patients,” he says. But there’s a shortage of inpatient psych unit beds in Missouri, so it could take up to 24 hours to admit a patient. In the meantime, these patients are stuck in the emergency room. To address that, Mercy created a psych unit in the ER and partnered with Burrell to provide timely mental health assessments. The new eight-bed wing of the ER provides patients a calm setting until they’re admitted into the hospital’s primary psychiatric unit. The unit is staffed with registered nurses trained in behavioral health.