Identifying Virginia’s Needs
There is an acute need for behavioral and mental health services in Virginia, yet the state ranks 39th nationwide when it comes to the availability of mental health services for adults (Mental Health America, 2020). What’s more, the pandemic exacerbated the demand for mental health supports, especially among Virginians who are medically underserved. While free and charitable clinics rose to the challenge to create a foundation for meeting behavioral and mental health care needs for its community members, the demand for services is overwhelming and providers, staff, and volunteers routinely are exhausted.
The Virginia Telemental Health Initiative (VTMHI) is a pilot program focused on meeting the mental health needs of Virginians who are medically underserved and cannot access care due to limited income, being un- or under-insured, and provider shortages.
Under the leadership of the Virginia Telehealth Network (VTN), this new pilot is made possible thanks to the collaboration of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), the Virginia Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (VAFCC), the University of Virginia Karen S. Rheuban Center for Telehealth (UVA Center for Telehealth), and the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center (MATRC).
Mission and Goals
The VTMHI mission is to expand access to timely and appropriate telemental health services by collaborating with Virginia’s free and charitable clinics and mental health providers who are in the process of meeting their licensure requirements.
By creating a foundation of education and supports to providers, free clinics, and collaborators, VTMHI will enhance Virginia’s virtual behavioral and mental health safety net while building a sustainable and well-equipped telemental health workforce.
Our goals include:
- Enhanced access. Remove the limits of geography and create consistent access to high-quality behavioral and mental health care via telehealth.
- Workforce development. Break down barriers to licensure for mental health providers and provide an opportunity to engage with a diversity of people in need of mental health services.
- Stronger safety net. Equip and strengthen Virginia’s free and charitable clinics in building integrated mental health care supports.
- Sustainability. Create a permanent telemental health resource accessible to all of Virginia’s free and charitable clinics to refer patients in need of mental health care.
Year 1: Proof of Concept
July 2022 – June 2023
During year one of the Pilot, VTMHI is collaborating with six free and charitable clinics that have a need for enhanced behavioral and mental health services to develop and test a virtual telemental health free clinic concept. Efforts are focused on building a technical infrastructure for counselor and social worker supervisor-supervisee collaboration; volunteer recruitment; educational and technical support for free and charitable clinic tele-behavioral and mental health integration; educational and technical support for pre-licensed mental health providers to build high-quality telehealth practices; and problem-solving to address patient/client technical/access needs.
Year 2: Statewide Network Growth
July 2023 – June 2024
Following Year 1, VTMHI will use lessons learned to expand to a statewide network staffed by behavioral and mental health providers working towards licensure as LCSWs, LPCs, LMFTs, as well as other licensed mental health providers interested in volunteering to work virtually with free and charitable clinic patients and referrals. Evaluation of year one will also determine a timeline for integrating prescribers, substance use disorder treatment, and social determinants of health supports.
Year 3 and beyond: Incorporating Prescribers and SDOH supports