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SMHC Launches Telepsychiatry Service to Meet Demand for Emergency Psychiatric Care in the Community


New service expands access to Behavioral Health Services in Sanford
Getting timely care for people with mental health needs, especially for someone in a crisis situation, can be difficult at best. On both a national and a state level there is a shortage of psychiatrists, and patients often have to wait for days, weeks or even months to be seen. Southern Maine Health Care (SMHC) has taken an innovative approach to better meet the behavioral health needs of the communities it serves by launching Telepsychiatry in the Emergency Departments of its medical centers in Biddeford and Sanford.  

“The demand for psychiatric services is significant, and SMHC’s medical center in Biddeford has York County’s only inpatient behavioral health unit,” said SMHC President and CEO Ed McGeachey. “Expanding access to emergency behavioral health services through Telepsychiatry, especially in the Sanford community where we have had limited resources, is one important step towards improving care for our patients.”
“The use of Telepsychiatry services has become a necessity as SMHC has recently experienced an influx of acute mentally ill patients in our psychiatric wing at the medical center in Biddeford,” added Liza Little, SMHC’s director of behavioral health. “This service will help to reduce wait times, reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and facilitate earlier access to treatment.”

Telepsychiatry is the use of real-time, interactive audio and video between a mental health provider and a client in order to provide psychiatric care when a mental health provider is not available for an in-person consultation. This service connects participants through the use of cameras and microphones and is completely confidential. It was launched in collaboration with Maine Behavioral Healthcare, St. Mary’s Department of Psychiatry, and SMHC’s Behavioral Health Services and Emergency Departments.

Telepsychiatry services are available in the Biddeford Emergency Department Friday through Sunday, from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. In the Sanford Emergency Department, Telepsychiatry services are available seven days a week from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. The Telepsychiatry providers are credentialed and experienced St. Mary’s psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners who work in partnership with SMHC Emergency Department staff to provide this service.

SMHC’s first patient to utilize the service commented that, “the providers were awesome.”

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