Behavioral Health in the ED

As we covered last month, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are essential to rural and underserved populations to help decrease health disparities. They serve as the healthcare safety net for many under-resourced communities around the country. In 2018, health centers served over 28 million patients, and today, FQHCs provide healthcare services to approximately 1 in 5 rural residents.

FQHCs strive to offer comprehensive care at every location, including mental health care services. In 2019, 93% of these centers were able to provide mental health counseling. In the past, the Affordable Care Act has been leveraged to fund this increase in mental health care, awarding funds specifically towards expanding mental health services. A 2017 study of the outcomes from these grants was less than encouraging though. The study concluded that the grant program “did not appear to be independently responsible for improving access to behavioral health services.”

Despite the increases in funding, there is still a significant lack of access to mental health services in rural areas. Clinics in rural areas are less likely to employ mental health professionals, meaning residents often have to travel long distances to find care. A 2018 study found that 65% of non-metropolitan US populations do not have access to psychiatrists, 47% are without a psychologist, and 81% do not have access to psychiatric nurse practitioners.

Expanding Telehealth Coverage

New policies can help to address this disparity though. At the start of 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) increased coverage for telehealth services. There are no longer geographic limitations on telepsychiatry services for patients with substance abuse disorders and any co-occurring mental health disorders.

Additionally, this past April the policy was expanded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, allowing any health practitioner at FQHCs to provide telehealth services with no restrictions on where the service is provided.

Telepsychiatry Provides Viable Options to Increase Coverage and Care

Research shows that telepsychiatry can reliably diagnose patients and that there is no difference in care outcomes compared to face-to-face visits. Based on these and other findings, the American College of Physicians is urging more providers to adopt telehealth into their practices. Telepsychiatry companies, like MindCare, are well-equipped to fill in the gaps in rural psychiatric care.

MindCare’s customizable partnerships can help expand FQHCs’ mental health care services even farther. Our tailored approach can meet the needs of varying budgets and patient-demands, allowing more rural medical centers to offer 24/7 access to mental health professionals. With a team of more than 100 board-certified physicians and behavioral health professionals currently licensed in 40 states, we are well-versed in providing consistent, quality care at scale.

Coordinating Mental and Physical Care

As healthcare professionals know, mental health disorders rarely occur in isolation. Often, patients will present with comorbidities, such as heart disease and neurological illnesses, which require coordination with other specialists and clinicians. Our team works to complement in-house clinical teams to provide coordinated patient care, improving patient outcomes by working together to address patients’ mental and physical healthcare needs.

FQHCs often run on limited budgets, focusing spending on patient care. The use of telepsychiatry has been shown to actually reduce costs for mental health care. Partnerships with MindCare can also be tailored to fit each facility, with the ability to provide psychiatrists or psychiatric nurse practitioners in blocks of time depending on the needs at each center.

MindCare is also partnering with FQHCs around the country to help clinicians through this tough time with the Well and Work program. With Well and Work, clinicians can discuss their symptoms and our trained health specialists will create an effective treatment plan and walk them through how to achieve better mental health.

If you would like to learn more about our outpatient services, please contact Jennifer Wood at jwood@mindcaresolutions.com.