UCHealth investment will improve access to behavioral health care at Longs Peak Hospital via telehealth
Daily Times-Call - 9/5/2019
Sep. 5--With 832,000 adults in Colorado struggling with mental health -- more than half of whom don't receive treatment according to Mental Health America -- UCHealth announced Wednesday it will invest $100 million over the next five years to address the state's behavioral health needs.
While a large chunk of that money will go to a new inpatient behavioral health unit at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, which is expected to open in late 2023, for UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital in Longmont, the money will go toward embedding clinical social workers and psychologists with primary care physicians, as well as providing video access to psychiatrists through UCHealth's Virtual Health Center.
Dan Weaver, a spokesman for UCHealth's Longs Peak Hospital said a broader plan is being developed for when behavior health professionals will be embedded at which hospital, but UCHealth will begin that process within the next 18 months and expect to have to program fully built out with four to five years.
Being one of the smaller facilities in UCHealth's portfolio, Longs Peak Hospital will have access to the new telehealth consultation services within the next six months. By allowing for video consultations with psychiatrists, the goal is to allow providers in emergency departments, primary care clinics or inpatient hospitals to be sure they are administering the best care in the most effective manner possible
"Attending to our patients' behavioral health needs in a timely manner is critical to their overall health and well-being," Dr. Neill Epperson, professor, and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said in a news release. "We know that 20% to 40% of primary care patients have a behavioral health need. By embedding services within primary care locations, we can treat these needs in a cost-efficient manner while still providing an expert psychiatrist for patients who need a specialist."
Having employed similar programs for stroke patients and those seeking urgent care, Weaver said the telehealth consultation services will allow for greater access to care while making it more convenient and affordable.
"Our tele-stroke program absolutely saves lives," he said. "Being able to talk with a national expert and identify the best course of treatment can save precious time and can also save people a significant amount of money as they may not need to be transferred to another hospital."
Allowing patients to talk with urgent care providers and receive prescriptions over their phones or computers also has diminished wait times at emergency rooms as people were able to get the care they needed from the comfort of their own homes, Weaver said.
"We've had really high satisfaction rates with that program," he said. "By offering behavior health consultations while patients are at a primary care clinic, we will be able to reach a lot more people and get them the care they need."
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