VICTORIA - Children and teenagers with mental-health challenges in northern B.C. are receiving specialized support sooner through the use of Telehealth videoconferencing.
Initially a pilot project in Prince Rupert, Smithers and Terrace last year, the Ministry of Children and Family Development - in partnership with BC Mental Health & Addiction Services (BCMHAS), an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority - is now using videoconferencing equipment to connect young people in several northern communities to psychiatrists at Children's and Women's Health Centre of BC in Vancouver.
The success of the pilot project has resulted in the service being expanded to Hazelton, Houston, Telkwa and Kitwanga. Patients are referred through their family physicians.
The telepsychiatry service has resulted in shorter wait times for families who might otherwise need to travel or wait for a psychiatrist to visit their community. Wait times have been reduced from several months to several weeks - and in some cases, to a few days. Over the last eight months, almost 50 children and youth in these communities have been able to see a psychiatrist from Vancouver through videoconferencing.
Telehealth also benefits mental-health workers in rural and remote communities who are able to access support from specialists in Vancouver.