The need for mental health services in Virginia has reached a crisis level.
The commonwealth ranks No. 34 in access to behavioral health care, and for Virginia’s youth, the state is second to last. Four in five Virginia localities have a shortage of mental health professionals. And Virginians are aware: 81% of the commonwealth believes that Virginia needs mental health reform.
Enter the Virginia Telehealth Network. The Richmond-based nonprofit is launching a new program designed to provide more access to mental health services by way of the internet.
The Virginia Telemental Health Initiative (VTMHI) is being kicked off through a pilot partnership with the Virginia Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. Through this first-ever alliance, eligible Virginians who have little or no health insurance will be able to receive free professional mental health counseling online. VTN Chair Karen S. Rheuban, M.D. said, “The launch of this pilot program is the culmination of an aspirational vision… among an alliance of exceptionally committed partners.”
The six free clinics participating in the pilot are: Bradley Free Clinic (Roanoke), Brock Hughes Medical Center (Wytheville), Charlottesville Free Clinic, Fauquier Free Clinic, Free Clinic of Franklin County and Health Brigade (Richmond).
The services are made possible by volunteer mental health providers who offer a broad scope of therapies, including for patients experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, substance abuse and other behavioral or mental health concerns.
Nelson Smith, the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services, which is a key supporter of VTMHI, said the program is an important step toward serving vulnerable and overlooked populations. “This innovative program addresses a critical need across the commonwealth, particularly for Virginians whose income levels put vital mental health services out of reach.”
Telehealth services – for mental health as well as other fields of medical care – have become an increasingly popular means of assessing and treating patients’ needs. Patients can contact the clinics directly to determine their eligibility and make appointments.
For more information about eligibility requirements and how Virginia residents can access mental health services through VTMHI, visit its resource page.
At the date of publication, this organization is a client of The Hodges Partnership.