Psychiatrists providing 27 clinics in 12 counties via webcam

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU Healthcare has expanded its telepsychiatry services to 27 clinics in 12 rural West Virginia counties to help provide more mental health treatment to adult, adolescent and child patients. Addiction-related services also include treatment for pregnant mothers.

Many West Virginians suffering from depression or addiction aren’t getting the care they need because of a lack of providers and treatment facilities, WVU psychiatrist Patrick J. Marshalek, M.D., of the WVU Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry, said.  
“In Morgantown, we’ve seen patients who commute from as far away as McDowell County due to scarcity of treatment providers,” Dr. Marshalek said. “The state needs expanded addiction services at all levels, including acute inpatient, outpatient and residential. Resources available to those without insurance are lacking even further.”

In 12 West Virginia counties – Barbour, Clay, Jackson, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Randolph, Roane, Tucker, Upshur and Wood – a certified addiction counselor or a behavioral health nurse on-site at a mental health facility works with WVU psychiatrists at Chestnut Ridge Center in Morgantown. With a web camera and a secure privacy-compliant computer server, the WVU caregivers provide rural patients with the same quality care they offer in Morgantown without patients having to leave their hometown.

At first, one of Marshalek’s patients said it was a little intimidating talking to him through a computer screen and a web cam. But she grew more comfortable with Marshalek quickly.

“He honestly cares and always wants to help. If you make a mistake, he gives you a second chance,” she said. “Without this program, I would not be getting the care that I need.”

Since the program began in 2009, WVU telepsychiatrists have seen 11,060 patients. Waiting lists for several of the clinics are already in the hundreds, Marshalek said.

“Despite the rapid expansion of services for these 12 counties, there are still many areas that are drastically underserved,” Kari-Beth Law, M.D., WVU telepsychiatry program director, said. “We have received positive feedback from patients and staff at each of the centers that we have partnered with along with regular requests for new or expanded services. West Virginians are in dire need of additional mental health resources.”

Photo caption: Dr. Patrick Marshalek has a web camera conversation with a counselor at a rural clinic as a part of WVU Healthcare’s telepsychiatry program.
For more information: Amy Johns, Director of Public Affairs, 304-293-7087
dlc: 08-19-13