South Carolina Increasing Telepsychiatry

Rural areas in South Carolina have a shortage of mental health professionals and as a result, Emergency Departments (ED) were experiencing an influx of patients needing psychiatric care. Average wait times were running between 48 and 72 hours.

The South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH) partnered with the Duke Endowment to develop a statewide telepsychiatry network for all South Carolina hospitals operating EDs. The program is referred to as the SCDMH “Emergency Department Telepsychiatry Consultation” program www.state.sc.us/dmh/telepsychiatry.

The telepsychiatry program received early financial support from the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services https://www.scdhhs.gov and program support from the South Carolina Hospital Association https://www.scha.org. The University of South Carolina, School of Medicine https://www.med.sc.edu made ongoing program evaluations available.

The telepsychiatry program reaches 24 participating hospitals and provides for 15 telepsychiatrists. Psychiatrists are available 24/7 and after the telepsychiatry consultation is completed, the recommended course of treatment is sent to the patient’s psychiatrist electronically.

SCDMH has become the largest provider of telepsychiatry services in the state with more than 72,000 telepsychiatry consultations taking place. Since the telepsychiatry program has become so successful in EDs, SCDMH is now equipping their community mental health centers and mental health clinics to provide psychiatric treatment services to their patients via telepsychiatry.

For more information, email D. Stewart Cooner, Director of Special Programs/Telepsychiatry at stewart.cooner@scdmh.org.

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