Martinsville, Va. — A new model for behavioral and mental health services provides patients of Bassett Family Practice and Ridgeway Family Health with much-needed access, even though the providers are not physically in the room.
Telepsychiatry comes to Martinsville-Henry County as the need for access to psychiatric care has dramatically increased, largely due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Martinsville-Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness received a two-year investment of $685,993 from The Harvest Foundation to grow its telepsychiatry program.
Sheryl Agee, senior operating officer at The Harvest Foundation, said the coalition is an organization focused on putting the patient first in everything they do to ensure the services they provide meet their needs.
“This expansion of telehealth services results in strong, trusted systems that everyone can access for healthcare services, regardless of their financial situation or other barriers they may have,” she said. “It also further increases the network of high-quality professionals available to our community. It’s especially important as we, unfortunately, live in a culture where often a negative stigma is attached to mental health symptoms and services, which hinder people from seeking the care they need. By integrating behavioral health services into a system that already provides a variety of healthcare services, patients can feel more at ease when accessing any care they may need.”
Landon Morrison, a nurse practitioner specializing in mental health and psychiatry, provides telehealth services at Bassett Family Practice, located at 324 T B Stanley Highway in Bassett, Va., and Ridgeway Family Health, located at 4944 Greensboro Rd. in Ridgeway, Va. After working as a registered nurse in a hospital for five years, he said he realized through all his patient encounters that mental health was as important as physical health for the good of people’s lives.
“I realized that physical health is tied to mental health — patients got well more often and quicker if they were in a better mental health space to do so,” Morrison said. “That’s what led me to psychiatry in general, and especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. That took a large toll on a lot of people’s mental health.”
Morrison said it can often be intimidating for people to visit someone like him, but it can also be very helpful to talk about their feelings. Every treatment is tailored to his patients, but Morrison said he’s able to teach coping skills, whether that’s exercise techniques, breathing techniques, or different ways of thinking about things. He’s also able to prescribe medications if needed for certain conditions.
“Many times people feel like they can’t talk to their own family members or friends because of judgment, history, or whatever it might be,” he said. “I would encourage anyone out there who is on the fence about getting help to talk to someone. It can’t hurt and there aren’t any serious side effects. Just give it a try.”
The use of telehealth has increased substantially in recent years and accelerated rapidly with the COVID-19 pandemic, said Marcus Stone, executive director of the MHC Coalition for Health and Wellness.
“In rural communities like ours, where there are fewer behavioral health providers, telehealth can connect patients with providers in other locations,” Stone said. “This not only increases access to behavioral healthcare services, but it can also increase their privacy and protect their anonymity. Telehealth has already been implemented in our modes of delivering standard primary care services to our patients, and as we continue to build a stronger healthcare system, this grant will allow us to offer improved access to care by connecting patients and our mental health services in a way that is more convenient for them.”
This investment supports the foundation’s strategic plan priority of developing a vibrant community by building a strong healthcare safety net system and expanding behavioral health services for Martinsville-Henry County residents.
To find out more about telepsychiatry at the MHC Coalition for Health and Wellness, visit healthycommunitymhc.org or call (276) 629-1076 (Bassett Family Practice); (276) 956-2233 (Ridgeway Family Health) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.