HARLINGEN — Gone are the days when lower Valley veterans need to leave their home to visit mental health providers.
Through the use of technology, the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VCB) in Harlingen has been delivering mental health care to rural veterans via its TeleMental Health Hosting Facility.
And earlier this week, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Office of Rural Health (ORH) approved millions of dollars aimed to further help veterans served by the Telemental Health Hosting Facility at the VCB.
“We are very excited to learn Valley Coastal Bend would be one of the recipients of these funds,” said VCB Director Homero S. Martinez III. “It will allow our health care system to develop, expand and sustain care of our TeleMental Health Hosting Facility, which in turn will better serve our rural veterans.”
According to a press release, the VCB’s TeleMental Health Hosting Facility will receive more than $9.8 million over the course of fiscal years 2020 and 2021.
“We’re a pretty rural location so we have veterans that may have some difficulty getting to their appointments,” said VCB TeleMental Health Program Manager Dr. Megahn Von Linden. “There are a lot of competing demands people have to meet such as financial barriers or because they’re working full-time so TeleMental Health is meant to be a convenience for veterans.”
How does TeleMental Health work?
Via TeleMental Health, veterans may receive diagnostic and medication management services and a variety of psychotherapy services.
Whether it’s through a laptop, computer, smart phone or tablet with internet connection and a camera, veterans can connect with their health provider via TeleMental Health through a “virtual medical room.”
“Basically, this is just like an in-office or face-to-face visit regarding quality and effectiveness of care,” VCB Customer Service Manager Hugo Martinez explained.
Prior to appointments, veterans and their providers receive nearly identical emails with a link that gives access to the session.
“This virtual medical room is kind of like an online chat room and sessions are conducted from there,” Von Linden said. “So, the most basic thing patients will need to be able to do is open the email and click on the link.”
According to Von Linden, patients without applicable devices or aren’t comfortable with technology can be issued pre-programmed VA loaner devices.
To find out more information about VCB’s TeleMental Health services, contact your health provider.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
• TeleMental Health is the use of information and telecommunication technologies to deliver mental health services when providers and veterans are separated by geographical distance.
• In fiscal year 2017, the VA delivered more than 473,000 TeleMental Health consultations to more than 151,600 veterans.