Monday, April 16, 2012
New online program aimed at helping rural doctors provide mental-health care
More than half of all U.S. mental health care takes place at the primary-care level, and that percentage is even higher in rural areas, where mental-health doctors are often hundreds of miles away, reports Newswise, a research-reporting service. A new online training program could help rural primary-care doctors better treat patients with mental health issues.
The Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska, a part of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, designed the program. Educational Director Howard Liu said primary care doctors are overwhelmed by the amount of mental health care they must provide. Newswise reports "the goal is to help primary care providers get more comfortable as they prescribe medications and refer patients to psychiatrists and therapists." The adolescent version of the program was released last fall and is being used by doctors worldwide. The adult and geriatric version will be released this spring.
Primary care doctor Angie Brennan estimates 35 percent of all visits to her practice have been mental health related. She said there are specific rural challenges to treatment, including "reluctance to see a counselor and a lack of mental health insurance coverage – combined with an intensified fear that someone in the community will find out a patient has mental health issues." (Read more)