Charlottesville Free Clinic set to launch new state mental health teleservice
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A new state program called The Virginia Telemental Health Initiative (VTMHI) will get more mental health services to Virginians for less.
The VTMHI is connecting Virginians who are uninsured or under-insured to free online mental health services. The initiative launched on Dec. 13 and is a collaboration between The Virginia Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, the Virginia Telehealth Network, and the Virginia Association of Free and Charitable Clinics
The Charlottesville Free Clinic is one of the first to roll it out starting in January. Director of the clinic, Susan Sherman, said the initiative will allow them to hire up to three new volunteers, adding nine new mental health appointments per week.
“We’re trying to marry these needs for people being able to access care, who may not have insurance, and helping to connect them with workforce development opportunities,” Robin Cummings, special project manager with the Virginia Telehealth Network said.
This comes as 94% of localities in Virginia report having shortages of mental health professionals.
“We’ve seen demand for mental and behavioral health services really increase, especially during the pandemic. And you know, it’s really hard for people that are on limited and low incomes to be able to find and afford quality mental and behavioral health services,” Sherman said.
State lawmakers are also looking at the current systems. This week the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found that Community Services Boards - organizations that coordinate mental health services - need some major changes.
“It’s clear from our review that additional funding is needed now to address current challenges and the report identifies some of those areas of need. You will hear our recommendation this morning for increasing crisis resources,” Director of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission Hal Greer said.
This new initiative will try to relieve some of the pressure.
“Our community services boards in the commonwealth are really overwhelmed with the number of clients that they could be seeing. And many of their services are really structured to support those individuals who are in crisis. Our hope is programs like this will help to keep folks from reaching crisis,” Cummings said.
The program hopes to expand to all 60 free clinics across Virginia.
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