A little-known government program providing expert mental healthcare to underserved veterans is the subject of a new report by Stone Phillips.
"Screen Time: How Telemental Health is Helping Underserved Veterans," published this week on StonePhillipsReports.com, reveals how high level mental health services are being delivered to veterans in even the most hard-to-reach places through videoconferencing, which connects clinicians in VA hospitals with veterans in local outpatient clinics.
In a VA system overwhelmed by demand and under fire for not providing timely mental healthcare to many veterans in need, this program is achieving remarkable success.
The report features an interview with psychiatrist Linda Godleski, Director of the National Telemental Health Center in West Haven, Conn.
According to Godleski, an estimated 50,000 veterans are currently enrolled in the government's telemental health program. She tells Phillips that treatment via videoconference is appropriate for most diagnoses, including PTSD, depression and problems related to traumatic brain injury (TBI) and has proven to be as effective as face-to-face psychotherapy.
"The most amazing aspect of it is to see large numbers of patients who would not have any mental health care have access in a really easy and acceptable manner," she tells Phillips. As evidence of the program's success, Godleski cites a new large-scale study (98,000 patients over four years) showing a 25% decrease in hospitalizations among veterans who received telemental health services. Godleski is the primary author of the study and will present the published findings this month at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting.
Screen Time also shows state-of-the-art messaging devices that enable mental health clinicians to monitor patients in their homes on a daily basis, issuing reminders about medications and asking patients how they are feeling (How depressed are you feeling today, scale of 1-10?), so problems can be addressed before they reach a crisis point.
Featured as a separate item on the website, Godleski offers a brief description of the regimen for treating PTSD, including 10 to 20-session modules using cognitive behavioral/processing therapy and/or prolonged exposure therapy that she says can be highly effective in helping many individuals.
Phillips says his interest in health services for veterans is inspired, in part, by his own father's medical odyssey during World War II.
Wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, Victor Phillips waited nearly a year before receiving surgery on his injured right arm. That arm remains paralyzed to this day.
Sharing his father's story, Stone Phillips writes, "As a nation, we could have done better for veterans like my father back then. And we can do better today. Delayed treatment, whether for physical or mental conditions, can have consequences for the patient and add enormously to the cost of care down the road."