Telepsychiatry relevant as ever during pandemic

GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) - The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on not only physical health, but mental health. As more businesses and services go virtual, telepsychiatry has become more relevant than ever.

Telepsychiatry has been around since 2013 in North Carolina when the General Assembly established the North Carolina Statewide Telepsychiatry Program referred to as NC-STEP.

Ryan Baker, MHA, Administrator for the Center for Telepsychiatry at ECU describes it as a way “to fill behavioral health gap needs in emergency departments across North Carolina and more recently, community sites.”

Baker says since 2013, they’ve been able to provide services for more than 40,000 people at 57 hospitals and community sites across the state. He says there was a great need before the pandemic, with 30 counties in the state having no psychiatrists and 90 counties designated as mental health shortage areas.

Since the pandemic, he says the need for mental health services has only increased.

“We have seen an uptick, but we think we’re going to see the real increases as people get more comfortable getting out of their homes and going to get the help they needed that they might not have looked for during the pandemic. Also, as people become more stressed out about unemployment and their job situation,” said Baker.

Baker says a telepsychiatry meeting can be done on any application, like Zoom or Skype. A patient talks to a provider from anywhere in the state and the provider will assess your situation.

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