NWCH column: Telepsychiatry adds needed support – Colorado News

NWCH column: Telepsychiatry adds needed support – Colorado News

When people aren’t feeling well, their first stop usually is their family health care provider. Primary care providers see patients with a wide range of complaints including depression, anxiety and other symptoms affecting both their physical and mental wellbeing.

As many as 85 percent of physician visits are for problems that have a significant psychological or behavioral health component, according to the American Psychological Association.

This presents both a problem and a solution. In rural areas, behavioral health providers, especially psychiatric specialists who can prescribe medication, are in short supply. This shifts more behavioral health care to primary care providers, who may not have the expertise to treat more complex mental health conditions.

One answer is to bring specialty care to the primary care setting. This is happening at Northwest Colorado Health’s clinics in Craig and Steamboat Springs, where medical and behavioral health providers work together to help patients coping with problems such as stress, sadness and sleeplessness. Telepsychiatry, which connects patients to a psychiatric professional via videoconference, is the most recent addition.

“Physical and emotional health are interrelated,” said Lilia Luna, licensed clinical psychologist and behavioral health coordinator at Northwest Colorado Health. “Providing access to psychiatric support and medication management gets us closer to our goal of helping our patients achieve optimal overall health.”

Northwest Colorado Health recently rolled out telepsychiatry at its clinic in Craig and hopes to have it available in Steamboat Springs by the end of 2017. Mind Springs Health is contracting…

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