South Carolina was deeply impacted by mental health budget cuts in recent years. Patients seeking mental health treatment would have to wait long hours in hospital emergency departments (EDs) for psychiatric exams. Many hospitals, especially in rural locations, did not have a psychiatrist on staff and were not prepared to care for patients with mental health conditions. The South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH) saw the problem, and to overcome it sought the help of The Duke Endowment, a philanthropic organization that funds nonprofit hospitals. The solution was innovative. In partnership with the S.C. Hospital Association, SCDMH developed a tele-psychiatry system. A form of telehealth, tele-psychiatry enables psychiatrists to deliver services at a distance via video conferencing. The SCDMH Telepsychiatry Consultation Program is currently operational in 24 hospital EDs, with 1 more coming online in the very near future.
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