More than 3,000 children in 10 eastern Kentucky counties are being provided with better access to specialty mental health care through telehealth technology.
Pathways Community Mental Health Center CEO, Dr. Kimberly McClanahan says, the technology is in place thanks to a three year $930,000 grant from the United Health Foundation.
She says Pathways, Inc. and the Foundation can now partner to make mental health services more available for children in rural Kentucky.
“In this country, we have a huge shortage of psychiatrists in general, but child and adolescent psychiatrists in particular. It’s estimated that we need about 30,000. The country has approximately 8,300. And we have many many children, clearly in need.”
McClanahan says technology at 16 outpatient offices and specialty residential units in the region connects children to child and adolescent psychiatrists, eliminating the need for families to drive as long as two hours to access a child’s mental health specialist.
“We’re focused on delivering exceptional care that meets the needs of the people we serve. The number one barrier to care in this part of Kentucky is always transportation. If you can’t get there you can’t get the care.”
Dr. McClanahan says telehealth technology isn’t new but is becoming more effective.
According to America’s Health Rankings, Kentucky has seen a 25 percent increase in teen suicides since 2016. The grant is expected to help increase the number of children served by child and adolescent psychiatrists by 30 percent by 2021.