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Date Published: Thursday, August 31, 2017
Date Updated: Friday, June 30, 2023

Telepsychiatry Brings Specialists to Delaware County Students via Innovative Mental Health Services Program

Delaware County students who previously had to travel long distances to access mental healthcare can now receive it in their own school through a new program provided by Margaretville Hospital

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Delaware County students who previously had to travel long distances to access mental healthcare can now receive it in their own school through a new program provided by Margaretville Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), that combines in-person therapy and a special telepsychiatry program.

Students and their families in the Roxbury Central School District were the first to benefit from the program, which started there in June. The program has been available to students and their families in the Margaretville school district since August and is expected to start in the Downsville and Andes districts within weeks. Expansion of the program to other districts serving Delaware County students is planned for the fall.

"Bringing WMCHealth's telepsychiatry technology to the districts and combining it with face-to-face therapeutic services in the schools is a medical advance that has been shown to lead to better patient outcomes," said Eric Amoh, Senior Vice President for Clinical Services at WMCHealth. "WMCHealth is one of the largest providers of behavioral health services in New York state, and we're proud to deliver this important service to Delaware County families, as close to their homes as possible."

Through the program, therapeutic counseling services to improve students' mental health and well-being are offered in the schools -- in person -- with licensed behavioral health counselors. If the on-site counselor identifies a need, the services of a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist through the WMCHealth eHealth telemedicine program are made available. The mental health specialist, trained to work with children and teens exclusively, will communicate with each student, the student's parents or guardians, and the counselor through secure videoconferencing technology.

"Mental health is an essential part of a child's overall health and it has a complex interactive relationship with his or her physical health and ability to succeed in school, at work and in life overall," said Kenneth Oclatis, Ph.D., Program Administrator for Telepsychiatry and Special Projects at HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, which operates Margaretville Hospital and is also a WMCHealth member. "Having in-person individual and family therapy sessions, combined with live video mental health sessions and referrals to other community services if needed, can be an ideal way for students to receive timely, meaningful help, especially in Delaware County, which has a shortage of mental health professionals."

The mental health services that students receive will typically include an initial evaluation, followed by medically based care, the effectiveness of which the psychiatrist will evaluate in regularly scheduled follow-up sessions.

Until now, Delaware County students needing mental health services for challenges such as anxiety, depression, adjustment to stressful experiences or attention deficit disorder were often put on long waiting lists or forced to travel long distances, sometimes more than 100 miles, for care. The students who had to travel such distances often missed appointments or discontinued treatment altogether.

Margaretville Hospital's funding for the mental health services program comes from the state and federal Vital Access Provider Program and from a separate Appalachian Regional Commission grant.