Using Telehealth for Mental Health

School-based telehealth program to increase access to mental health services for disadvantaged adolescents

Field of Work: Using telemedicine to provide mental health services for disadvantaged youth

Problem Synopsis: The stresses of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in August and September 2005 intensified the need for adolescent and child mental health services in Galveston, Texas, where 60 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Hurricane Ike, which struck the area in September 2008, made this need even more urgent.

Synopsis of the Work: The University of Texas Medical Branch established mental health clinics in nine middle schools and high schools in four districts in Galveston County where children received services of university-based clinicians through videoconferencing. The project also created a mental health clinic at the Galveston County Juvenile Justice facility designed to divert children from the justice system.

Students and parents used state-of-the-art videoconferencing equipment at the clinics to interact with mental health clinicians at the university. Case managers in the clinics coordinated the students' care.

Key Results

  • University clinicians provided video-based counseling to 3,247 young people, and case managers also referred children and families to other community-based providers. A survey of parents and guardians showed that an overwhelming majority viewed the project as beneficial. The project became the leading provider of pediatric psychiatric services in Galveston County, according to the project directors. The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality included the program in its online "Innovations Exchange."