The United States Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that between 11 and 13 percent of 9-to-13-year-olds in Texas have some type of serious emotional disturbance. The Women's Shelter of East Texas (WSET) believes that up 90 percent of the shelter's residents need mental health services. Yet, in East Texas often the closest mental health care services are 200 miles away at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston (UTMB). UTMB's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health and the Division of Nursing at Stephen F. Austin State University will address this issue by establishing telemedicine linkages to four rural community sites. Sites include WSET; a maternal and child health clinic that services low- income women and children; and two school districts that together have double the national average rate of students living in poverty. The network's goal will be to improve access to mental health services for women and children. It will also be used to enhance the ability of teachers, health and social service professionals, law enforcement officials, and families to recognize and secure treatment for disruptive behaviors among children and adolescents. Finally, the network will help coordinate the delivery of health, education, social, and public safety services to low- income women and children in a timely and appropriate manner.
Professionals know that early identification and timely intervention of mental and emotional health problems can prevent or reduce violence, yet in many rural areas across the country there is a dire shortage of mental health service providers. This project will serve as a model for the use of telemedicine to address this issue. Using a combination of telemedicine and local resources, the partners in this project will develop a continuum of mental health prevention and rehabilitation services to reduce violence and consequences of victimization among at-risk populations in a rural, underserved area.
The project is a partnership among the University of Texas Medical Branch, Stephen F. Austin State University, the state's Mental Health/Mental Retardation system's regional center, the Burke Center, the Women's Shelter of East Texas, the Maternal and Child Health Clinic in Nacagdoches, and two school districts in East Texas.