Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Maine Rural Health Research Center, Population Health and Health Policy

Telemental Health in Today's Rural Health System

Abstract: 

Telemental health has long been promoted in rural areas to address chronic access barriers to mental health care. While support and enthusiasm for telemental health in rural areas remains quite high, we lack a clear picture of the reality of telemental health in rural areas, compared to its promise. This Research & Policy Brief reports on the first part of our study—the online survey of 53 telemental health programs—and describes the organizational setting, services provided, and the staff mix of these programs. We draw from our telephone interviews with 23 of these programs to help describe the organizational context of telemental health programs. 

Key Findings:

  • The scope and volume of services provided are often modest suggesting that the business case for these programs may be weaker than the clinical case.
  • The programs in our study were able to secure funding and other supports to implement services, but their ability to maintain and expand services to address unmet need is less certain.
  • Telemental health primarily addresses issues related to the distribution of providers and travel distances to care. However, there are underlying practice management issues, common to all mental health practices in rural areas, which pose challenges to the scope and sustainability of telemental health, including reimbursement, provider recruitment and retention, practice economies of scale, high rates of uninsurance, and high patient “no show” rates.
  • It is becoming increasingly apparent that telehealth technology, by itself, cannot overcome service delivery challenges without underlying reform to the mental health service system.

Suggested Citation:

Lambert, D., Gale, J., Hansen, A. Y., Croll, Z., & Hartley, D. (2013). Telemental health in today's rural health system. Portland, ME: University of Southern Maine, Muskie School of Public Service, Maine Rural Health Research Center.

 

Publication Type: 
Research and Policy Brief
Publish Date: 
December 18, 2013
URL: 
http://muskie.usm.maine.edu/Publications/MRHRC/Telemental-Health-Rural.pdf

Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system

Marty Zanghi

USM's Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy has been awarded a $600,000 grant to help young people raised in Maine's foster system to prepare for college and the workforce.

The money comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a $5.4 million national effort aimed at youth who are homeless or in either the foster care or juvenile justice systems.

"Many of these young people have suffered abuse or trauma and were raised in poverty and neglect," said Marty Zanghi, the Cutler Center's youth development director.

The money -- including an expected $400,000 more in matching funds -- will pay for contracted work with agencies in the target areas, starting with the greater Portland area and Penobscot, Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Nationally and in Maine, only about 3 percent of people who grow up in the foster care system achieve a college degree, he said.

"It's dramatically lower than the rate for the general population," Zanghi said. "It's a horrible outcome."

It doesn't have to be that way, though.

"There are young people that overcome these circumstances," he said. "I know people who have master's degrees and Ph.Ds."

The Casey Foundation's national effort is being called the "Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential" (LEAP) initiative.

The initiative is working on partnerships in Maine and nine other areas: Alaska, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York. In each case, people will adapt two evidence-based models to meet the needs of these youth, including support to address the trauma they may have experienced in their lives.

In Maine, the work will include a pair of successful programs, Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) and Jobs for the Future. Results will be carefully tracked, Zanghi said.

After the first year, the program is expected to grow.

"Eventually, the additional help will be available to all children, 14 and over, in the foster care system in the state of Maine," Zanghi said.

Connect With Us