Sept. 21, 2020
IU researchers from the School of Public Health-Bloomington, in partnership with the Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, will be developing a psychiatric and mental health expanded network for residents in Martin County, thanks to a $1.2 million telepsychiatry grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Faith Net program will work with Memorial Hospital’s Loogootee Family Medicine, the Memorial Hospital’s Martin County Health Center and the Faith Community Nurses to increase access to psychiatric care and direct patient encounters, as appropriate, with a psychiatric advanced nurse practitioner or licensed social worker.
“Martin County suffers from a critical shortage of both mental health and physical health services providers, with few options for emergency,” said Jon Agley, associate professor at the School of Public Health-Bloomington and co-leader of the project. “By meeting patients where they are, we hope to improve residents’ access to care, optimize routing of patients to mental healthcare services and reduce psychiatric and mental health disease.”
The project will couple telehealth services with faith-based community nursing programs to provide residents a means for ongoing support from education and mental health treatment, as well as preventing future mental health crises and substance use relapses. It will involve collaboration between the Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, the Martin County faith community, the public health department, and community partners to create a joint, multi-sectoral shared network for responding to various mental health concerns, emergency consultation services via a smartphone app and telehealth use to rural providers and faith-based nurses who do not have access to immediate emergency care specialists.
The grant will allow for an advanced nurse practitioner and a licensed social worker to support local rural-based primary care clinics who can provide emergency consultation and the promotion of timely and non-stigmatizing telehealth mental health services to workplaces, churches, schools and community spaces in the county.
“Increasing access to mental health services, particularly telehealth, is a major area of interest for rural counties,” said Priscilla Barnes, associate professor of applied health science in the School of Public Health-Bloomington. “The formation and sustainability of community partnerships are essential in building the local capacity of public health and mental health systems to adequately respond to population-based needs. This project helps reinforce the need for partnership and collaboration among public health agencies, healthcare organizations, and community-based organizations to help improve health in populations experiencing high rates of health disparities.”
Mental health issues, specifically depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide and substance abuse were identified as major concerns in Martin County, said Amy Todd, a faith community nurse and representative of the Martin County Mental Health Task Force. But county residents may not seek professional psychological health services, she said, due to mistrust and stigma associated with traditional place-based services.
Additionally, transportation challenges, lack of knowledge about health services and lack of the number of counselors available to assist with mental health needs, were also identified as primary concerns for the county, she said.
This collaboration with IU, Todd said, will help provide essential services to people in need.
"I am so excited and filled with joy to know that our residents will have the opportunities available to them to experience quality, safe, effective and patient-centered mental health care and substance abuse programs in their own county,” Todd said. “Our residents, of all ages, have suffered with gaps in mental health care therapies and strategies related to many disparities associated with living in this rural area. This grant will allow our partners to address gaps that are specific to our county as they work with individuals who have been resilient through many of life’s struggles unique to Martin County and the different cultures that lie within its borders. I am just so grateful for the future; the partnerships, the healthcare, and the wellness to come for our members of society.”