The Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (ARHP), Inc. along with its partner facilities are teaming up to treat patients presenting to local emergency rooms with behavioral health disorders via telemedicine.
The project launched in late October and is well underway in providing services patients who have historically been backlogged in emergency rooms while waiting for treatment options.
“This project will allow us to have a licensed clinical social worker connect directly to the patient in an emergency room so they can conduct an assessment and get the patient the treatment they need.” Said Heather Perry, project director/case manager.
While telemedicine is not new in Arkansas, this group of 13 hospitals is the first large-scale project where behavioral health specialists will dial directly into hospital emergency rooms.
“We’re lucky all of our participating facilities have been involved in telemedicine for several years and are members of the UAMS e-Link network. Many of them already participate in programs like AR SAVES and ANGELS,” Perry said.
The goal of the grant-funded initiative is to provide immediate services to the 18-64-year-old population at risk of developing or diagnosed with a behavioral health issue. The project is funded by the Rural Health Care Services Outreach Program and covers eight counties in South Arkansas. The goal is to reduce morbidity and mortality of patients suffering from behavioral health conditions. The project will establish a behavioral health task force to address ongoing and emerging needs related to mental health services. The project will focus on Mental Health First Aid to assist hospital facilities in the region.
“We’re trying to reach as many people in crisis as we can,” said Perry. “The faster we can get these patients the care and treatment they need, the faster we can get them back home or into an appropriate facility.”
In addition to working with hospitals, the ARHP will work with local EMS, law enforcement agencies, and high school and college teachers to help educate the public and reduce the stigma that is often associated with behavioral health issues.
“Community education and awareness is key to reducing the stigma associated with behavioral health. In order for us to begin to address these issues, community members need to understand mental illness and know there is local treatment and therapy available for anyone,” said Mellie Bridewell, ARHP Chief Executive Office.
The expected outcomes of the project include increased access to care, increased understating among providers, patients and community members, and an improved system of care to decrease patients experiencing a mental health crisis.
“The ARHP is just another example of how healthcare groups are utilizing the UAMS e-Link network to provide care to patients in areas where there is a health professional shortage. We are proud to support this group and its efforts to provide the best possible care for the residents of Arkansas through the use of telemedicine,” said Roy Kitchen, UAMS e-Link Director.
To learn more about the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership and its partner facilities, visit https://www.arruralhealth.org/