Access to behavioral health services is crucial no matter where you live, but sadly, patients in rural areas all too often struggle to obtain this important type of care. Rural community members often face a lack of specialty providers and may be forced to travel long distances to receive therapy/counseling or psychiatric medication services. Many people feel forced to forgo receiving those services at all if they cannot travel or schedule care around the demands of family and work.
Here at Fastpace Health, we don’t want any patient to feel overlooked, Robert McKenzie, Executive Sponsor of Virtual Health said. More than 28.6 million rural Americans reside in health professional shortage areas with limited or no access to behavioral health care. Now that Christian Family Medicine & Pediatrics, Reelfoot Family Walk-in Clinic, Sunrise Pediatrics and Kids are Special have joined the Fastpace Health family of companies, we are thrilled to help increase access to behavioral health care through telehealth with the addition of 16 clinic locations across rural Tennessee.
Nikita Duke, DNP, PMHNP-BC, FPH, Director of Behavioral Health, explains that behavioral health services provided via telehealth can be a lifesaver in both the literal and metaphorical sense for rural patients.
“Our goal with these new locations is to integrate psychiatric nurse practitioners, who are extensively trained to help patients with medications and treatment, and therapists into established practices,” Duke says.
The dedicated walk-in, primary care and pediatric providers in our clinics provide excellent care to their patients and, in many cases, collaborate with our team of Licensed Professional Counselors and Licensed Clinical Social Workers to provide in-person counseling on designated days. We are excited to expand our services with virtual options that will bring access to psychiatric nurse practitioners who have extensive training and years of experience managing psychiatric medications, Duke says.
According to Duke, combined treatment, which is the utilization of both medication and counseling services, is proven to be the most effective way to manage behavioral conditions such as anxiety and depression. We want our patients to feel they are managing their symptoms and treating their conditions as effectively as possible, and with virtual behavioral health services available at these additional clinic locations, we are well on our way to bridging the gap to behavioral health services for more rural communities in need.
McKenzie explains that by early May the 16 clinics will join the existing network of more than 163 clinics where FPH’s behavioral health team provides care via telehealth five days per week. In addition, the vast majority of patients are also eligible to receive care via telehealth from the comfort of their own homes. FPH’s goal is to improve access to behavioral health treatment with skilled, experienced behavioral health providers who focus on serving America’s rural communities.
Rural clinics sometimes struggle to offer these services because they do not have a large enough patient population to support a full-time behavioral health team. Fastpace Health has addressed that challenge by empowering its providers to provide care virtually across its entire network of clinics.
“These new clinics will gain access to a dedicated team of providers and support staff who are excited to help meet their patients’ needs,” said Duke.
Sources: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Svcs., Designated Health Professional Shortage Areas Statistics, First Quarter of Fiscal Year 2022, Designated HPSA Quarterly Summary (Jan. 1, 2022).