University of South Carolina

USC shares prestigious national award for telepsychiatry

By Margaret Lamb; Margaret@mailbox.sc.edu; 803-777-5400

A statewide telepsychiatry initiative that is changing the way emergency psychiatric patients are treated has earned a prestigious national award for its innovative care.

The program is a partnership among the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, the S.C. Department of Mental Health, the S.C. Hospital Association and the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Meera Narasimhan, professor and chairman of the USCSOM Department of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science and director of research initiatives, and John Magill, state director of the S.C. Department of Mental Health, accepted the Psychiatric Services Achievement Award (Silver Award) at the Institute of Psychiatric Services meeting of the American Psychiatric Association recently in San Francisco.

USC President Harris Pastides said the award was recognition of the achievements of the USC School of Medicine and its public and private partners.

“Solving problems today requires creativity, imagination and a plan to work together to bring ideas to fruition,” Pastides said “This partnerships taps into all these, along with a strong desire to improve health care in our state. This award is well deserved.”

“We are so proud of this honor,” Narasimhan said. “Telepsychiatry is an excellent example of how public, private and academic partners can work together to improve access and affordability and provide quality care for the citizens of our state. This innovative project shows that, if you do it alone you go faster, but if you do it together you go farther.”

Magill said the partnership is an outstanding example of collaboration that benefits the citizens of South Carolina.

“This is a great model with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, the Department of Health and Human Services, the South Carolina Hospital Association, Office of Research and Statistics and other stakeholders working in concert to address the mental health needs of the state in a time of declining resources,” Magill said.

The awards have been presented since 1949 to innovative programs that deliver services to the mentally ill or disabled, have overcome obstacles, and can serve as models for other programs.

The program, which is the first of its kind in the nation, uses telecommunication and information technologies to connect patients in need of urgent care in an emergency department setting with psychiatrists who can diagnose and prescribe immediate treatment. The telepsychiatry services are available at 25 hospital emergency departments in the Palmetto State and provide emergency psychiatric care access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More than 8,400 patients have been served since the program was implemented in March 2009.

Narasimhan and Magill said the statewide telepsychiatry initiative shows immense promise for improving care and outcomes for mental health patients in hospital emergency departments and said the success would not be possible without the support of the participating partners.

“This has the potential to revolutionize and improve patient care.” She said. “One-quarter of Americans have some form of mental illness, and depression is the second-largest public health problem in the United States. Ultimately, this is about saving lives and improving quality of life for patients and their families.”

The project is funded by an R01 grant from National Institute of Mental Health to USC and a Duke Endowment grant to the S.C. Department of Mental Health. Magill is the lead on the Duke Endowment Grant, and Narasimhan the lead on the National Institute of Mental Health Ro1 award.

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Posted: 11/03/11 @ 9:15 PM | Updated: 11/04/11 @ 1:26 PM | Permalink