Rural West Virginia residents battling addiction will have a new treatment tool thanks to a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration. West Virginia University was awarded the grant, which will provide funding for four years, to expand its telepsychiatry program to rural counties in the state.


Susanne Choby, M.D. is director of WVU’s Chestnut Ridge Center Telepsychiatry program. Through the program, Choby and other staffers have assisted more than 4,000 patients in five West Virginia counties: Mingo, Mercer, Jackson, Roane and Clay. The $1 million competitive grant will allow the telepsychiatry program to expand to three new counties: Logan, McDowell and Randolph.


Participants in the telepsychiatry program’s addiction treatment clinic communicate with program staff through a secure audio and video connection. Due to the sensitive nature of health-care related communications, all participating patients are required to sign a Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) consent form.


“A lot of the patients really prefer to see a psychiatrist using this technology,” said Choby, who is also an assistant professor in the WVU School of Medicine Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry. “The patients pick it up quickly. In the electronic age, people nowadays are more comfortable interacting and spend more time using technology than they do with other human beings. Telepsychiatry is a great equalizer. Patients, I think, feel very comfortable with it.” Source: WVU


In addition to the expansion of the telepsychiatry program, grant funds will also be used to establish a metabolic monitoring database for psychiatry patients that take anti-psychotic medication. The database will help enhance the primary care that these patients receive, which should lead to better health outcomes for the participants.


Photo: Susanne Choby, M.D., conducts a telepsychiatry session in her office at WVU Healthcare’s Chestnut Ridge Center. (Photo: WVU)


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WVU expands telepsychiatry program
Telepresence takes on a mental twist. West Virginia University is expanding its telepsychiatry program to rural counties thanks to a $1 million grant.