Compared to urban populations, rural communities face significant disparities in regard to mental health care access. In order to address these inequities through telehealth counseling services, Dr. Carly McCord, research assistant professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, has been award $975,000 in funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Dr. McCord is a licensed psychologist and director of clinical services for the Telehealth Counseling Clinic (TCC).
“We will partner with six local communities in the greater Brazos Valley, all of which are designated as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas as identified by HRSA, to increase access to mental health services for low-income residents,” said Dr. McCord.
Regional health status assessments conducted by the Center for Community Health Development at the School of Public Health have consistently identified mental health and well-being concerns for more than a decade. Higher than average rates for depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, excessive drinking, among other indicators are present. The mental health professional to population ratio for the region is 7,554 to 1 compared with the state of Texas at 990 to 1. Most of the social and health-related services are housed within suburban Brazos County, which is 1 hour and 45 minutes away for some of the rural areas.
The TCC will identify and enroll eligible individuals into services through outreach, secondary screenings, and relationships with key partners. Enrolled individuals will be provided evidence-based mental health services via videoconference. The mental health services will be housed within health resource centers, primary care clinics and a rural access hospital and delivered through secure telehealth connections. When individuals are unable to access the nearest access point, the Mend telehealth platform will make services accessible from their mobile device. The TCC will partner with HRSA’s Telehealth Focused Rural Health Research Center and conduct evaluations of counseling services in order to establish a stronger evidence-base for the effectiveness of tele-behavioral health care.
“Nearly a decade ago, HRSA funded our first pilot of telehealth counseling in the Brazos Valley. Together we are building a legacy of quality service and research and equipping the next generation of health professionals for the future of telehealth,” said Dr. McCord.