NC expands psychiatry via video conferencing

Aug. 16, 2013 @ 01:00 PM

North Carolina is expanding the ability of doctors and other counselors to make long-distance evaluations of people who may be suffering mental breakdowns.

Gov. Pat McCrory was in Greenville on Friday to draw attention to the state's decision to expand the practice of psychiatric medicine by video conferencing.

State legislators committed $4 million over the next two years to establish a statewide "telepsychiatry" program to provide more mental health services in rural areas. It's based at East Carolina University's medical school and now connects about a dozen community hospitals in eastern North Carolina.

State officials say having psychiatrists available to consult with remote hospitals when troubled patients show up can cut hospital emergency department wait times, reduce involuntary commitments and save local law enforcement the time needed to transport patients.