Office of Rural Health
Native Domain Telemental Health Services
Telemental Health Clinics
An increasing amount of evidence shows that American Indian Veterans have the highest rate of PTSD of any ethnic group and face significant barriers to care. One of the biggest barriers is geography, such as living on reservations in rural and remote areas at great distances from medical facilities. The Telemental Health Clinics for Native Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) were implemented due to these barriers.
These clinics provide ongoing mental health care, including medication management, case management, and individual, group and family psychotherapy to Northern Plains Veterans living on or near rural American Indian reservations in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.
This unique service within the VA system demonstrates an innovative model to provide greatly needed mental health services to an underserved rural minority. The general model and processes of care represented by these clinics hold promises of improved care and treatment for rural Veterans in general, as well as other underserved rural populations. Studies suggest that telemental health is as effective as face-to-face services and patient attitudes towards this delivery mechanism are positive.
The American Indian Telemental Health video (Length 19:58) presents an overview of a series of Telemental Health Clinics that use videoconferencing to provide remote mental health treatment to Native Veterans living on or near rural reservations in the Northern Plains. This population has unique health care needs and faces numerous barriers to accessing health care services. These clinics provide a way to reach this vulnerable population and increase access to culturally specific care through collaborative efforts and partnerships.
Tribal Outreach Workers (TOW) are generally military Veterans and members of the tribes for which they serve and are employed by the VA. Their background enables them to foster trust and rapport with Native Veterans and reduces cultural barriers of the Telehealth Clinics. Their duties vary from assisting Native Veterans with determining their VA services eligibility, assisting with enrollment, scheduling intakes and appointments, orienting the patient on how to use the videoconferencing equipment, troubleshooting the technical aspects of running the telecommunications equipment in the clinics, to coordinating emergency crisis management. The TOW also works closely with the remote clinicians and provides guidance on cultural and community issues that may be relevant to a patient’s treatment or care.
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