Virginia unveils new statewide initiative to increase access to mental health services

RICHMOND, Va. – As part of Virginia’s observation of May as Mental Health Awareness Month, a new statewide initiative designed to improve access to mental health services has been launched.

Gov. Ralph Northam and Dr. Daniel Carey, Virginia’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources, have officially unveiled the new state-wide initiative, Virginia Mental Health Access Program (VMAP).

VMAP has been in development since 2018.

According to a press release, VMAP is a statewide initiative that provides education to primary care providers on pediatric mental health management; increase their access to child psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers; and helps their patient families navigate the availability of additional mental health care.

“Virginia ranks 41st in the nation for our mental health workforce, which is unacceptable,” said Daniel Carey, MD, MHCM, Secretary of Health and Human Resources. The Virginia Mental Health Access Program – more than three years in the making with partners and resources across the Commonwealth – is an important step forward in helping Virginia families access the type of mental health care they need for their children.”

The Virginia Mental Health Access Program is centered around four core components:

Education: The program provides continuing education to primary care providers (including paediatricians, family medicine practitioners, NPs and PAs) enabling these providers to better screen, diagnose, manage and treat their pediatric patients for a range of mental illnesses.

Access to Behavioral Health Consultation: VMAP connects primary care providers treating children and adolescents over the phone with regional VMAP hubs staffed with child and adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers available for consultation.

Care Navigation: Assistance is available to help patient families identify and navigate additional mental health services offered in their communities, beyond primary care, as needed.

Telehealth: Telehealth services will be available to VMAP hubs to assist with consultations later in 2021. This will allow VMAP consultations to provide better support for PCPs.

According to VMAP, more than 500 primary care providers statewide have signed up to the VMAP consultation line and more than 1,000 consultations have already been given to primary care providers treating children and adolescents through the VMAP consultation line.

More than 450 health care providers have also received training in pediatric mental health through VMAP’s educational program.

“This day during Mental Health Awareness month marks an important milestone for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I am proud of the role VMAP has played in developing this statewide response to the lack of essential mental health resources in each part of the state, ”said Sandy L. Chung, MD, the medical director of VMAP, a former board member of the Medical Society of Virginia and herself a pediatrician. “In Virginia, there are only 13 child and teen psychiatrists per 100,000 children, a ratio that threatens the well-being of many of our youngest citizens. We are Governor Northam and Sec. Be concerned about their leadership and the leadership of Virginia lawmakers who contributed to the core funding of VMAP for this pivotal initiative. “

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