South Carolina Department of Mental Health

DMH Community Telepsychiatry Programs

Building on the success of the Department of Mental Health (DMH) Emergency Department Telepsychiatry Program, telepsychiatry services between DMH centers and clinics around the State have been developed to provide psychiatric care where there is a shortage of available psychiatrists.  Statewide, DMH operates a network of 17 mental health centers and 43 satellite clinics. Recruiting psychiatrists is challenging in many locations, especially rural areas.   Also, driving to remote rural clinics consumes valuable time better spent serving patients.  

Beginning in 2012, DMH began implementing the use of high definition telepsychiatry equipment, across centers and clinics. 

Intra-Center Telepsychiatry:   Many DMH MHCs operate clinics in rural counties that are distant from their main center.   For example, Beckman MHC catchment area covers seven counties. The use of telepsychiatry within catchment networks allows psychiatrists based at the main center to serve outlying satellite clinics without having to travel to those locations.   This technology provides patients in need of mental healthcare both scheduled and urgent access to psychiatric services.   All DMH centers have this capability and most use it regularly.   Intra-Center telepsychiatry allows telepsychiatrists to provide an additional 400 - 500 patient consultations per month.

Center-to-Center Telepsychiatry:   DMH has recruited a few Agency psychiatrists to supplement catchment areas experiencing a shortage of available psychiatric time by utilizing telemedicine.   These psychiatrists have reliable high definition access to patients and staff in underserved areas.   There are currently five full-time DMH psychiatrists from the Charleston area who serve the Orangeburg Area MHC, Tri-County MHC, Spartanburg Area MHC, Waccamaw MHC, and Santee-Wateree MHC.   The psychiatrists provide more than 400 initial and follow-up visits, each month.   Currently, all DMH centers and clinics possess telepsychiatry equipment, while DMH Network Services continues working to establish Statewide Center-to-Center catchment interconnectivity. DMH is planning to expand its Center-to-Center telepsychiatry services to include Aiken-Barnwell MHC and Lexington MHC by the end of 2015.