Telehealth connects children, teenagers with a mental illness to specialists
The experimental Telehealth program has been expanded to the northern B.C. communities of Hazelton, Houston, Kitwanga and Telkwa.
The Telehealth program is a provincial initiative which uses videoconferencing and other new technology to connect children and teenagers suffering from various mental illnesses to consult directly some of the best Canadian psychiatrists from Vancouver and other large cities.
It was started as a pilot project last year in Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers. Since its inception, almost 50 children and adolescents have benefited from it.
The program not only reduces the hassle of travelling to larger cities to seek a specialist, it has also resulted in a dramatically reduced waiting time for patients.
A government press release claims that average waiting time for patients has dropped from several months to several weeks, and even several days in some cases.
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“They (patients) can receive specialty consultation in their own community rather than travelling to larger cities, such as Prince George or Vancouver,” said children and family development minister, Stephanie Cadieux.
The program is especially aimed at young people in remote communities. It targets the young as half of all the mental health problem start before a person is 15.
Despite the novel approach, there has been no slackening off of standards.
“A Telehealth appointment with Child and Youth Mental Health includes an education component about Telehealth, an assessment, recommendations and a treatment plan,” said Dr. Jana Davidson of the BC Mental Health & Addiction Services. “Following the appointment, a comprehensive report is sent to the youth’s referring physician and their mental-health team.”
There are over 20,000 children and teenagers diagnosed with a mental health problem in B.C.