COLUMBIA - People who live with mental illnesses in Missouri could see an increase in resources available. A technology called the telehealth delivery system will allow people to see a doctor without having to travel to a different town or county.
According to Brent McGinty, CEO and President of the Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Healthcare, telehealth allows patients to speak with doctors or other medical professionals through video.
"You can get an incredible, excellent connection between a physician who might be living in Columbia, Missouri, to an office up in Moberly, or over in Sedalia, or wherever that might be," McGinty said.
"The physician can see them, the other person can see the physician. They can see their eye movement. They can see that level of detail to where it really is like sitting across from a physician in an office," McGinty said.
According to McGinty, telehealth is important because it encourages healthcare providers to work in more rural parts of the state, or with facilities located in those areas.
It is being spread across Missouri as part of the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a federal demonstration program co-sponsored by Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt.
Missouri is one of eight states participating in a two year pilot program as part of the Excellence in Mental Health Act to improve accessibility across the state.
This is significant because in mid-Missouri, Burell Behavioral Health is the only community health center in ten counties that is contracted through the Missouri Department of Mental Health. Those counties include: Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Saline, Howard, Boone, Pettis, Cooper, Moniteau, and Morgan counties.
These counties fall under region 12 on the Missouri Department of Mental Health's website. An estimated 49,000 adults in that area live with a mental illness.
Debra Walker, Director of Public and Legislative Affairs for the Missouri Department of Mental Health, said the department contracts with administrative agents like Burrell Behavioral Health to provide mental health services in their regions.
"The law was actually written back in 1980 to establish these regions and establish administrative agents in every region to provide mental healthcare for that population," Walker said.
According to National Council for Behavioral Health, the Excellence in Mental Health Act improved Medicaid reimbursement to Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics for the services they provide and evidence based care.
The Medicaid reimbursements also encourage physicians to work in more rural parts of the state.
McGinty said the Excellence in Mental Healthcare Act is less than a year old, but the coalition sees it improving accessibility and wait times for people across the state as it is implemented more.