VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - Valdosta State University (VSU) is going above and beyond to offer the best possible mental health care to students possible and they’re using modern-day technology to do it.
School officials are offering telepsychiatry, or telepsych.
The VSU counseling center offers free on-campus counseling services for all VSU students and now they are taking it a step further to offer video conferences with a licensed psychiatrist.
“Typically, with our psychiatrist, we funnel the students who are having major depressive disorder, bipolar, the ones who are really struggling, who are being referred to a medical doctor, who’s got a specialization in psychiatry and addictions can do a full work up and evaluation," said Director of Counseling Dr. Tricia Hale.
The Office of Counseling Services is now offering psychological assessments, diagnoses and medication management from a psychiatrist at a remote location for those who need help beyond what the on-campus heath center can offer.
“We were trying to find creative ways to recruit a psychiatrist in the area and the staffing agency that we were working with suggested that we look at telepsych," explained Hale.
In the Student Health Center, professionals already offered free and confidential counseling services and now they are taking their innovation to the next level.
“That allows us to look at a broader scale of applicants for our psychiatric position," said Hale.
Students have had the chance to engage in a telepsych session, for a fee, since the beginning of the year.
“So, they walk in, they come into our office and they’re able to talk to the psychiatrist through the computer, through video based, web based portals," said Hale.
And the psychiatrist can write digital prescriptions to the local pharmacies if necessary.
Hale said that telepsych is a good option to ensure that students are offered the highest quality treatment and not just the treatment available in our area.
“So, the benefits are that we get the best of the best of psychiatrist in the state of Georgia," Hale said.
Students schedule their appointments and have their sessions in a private room with a computer and webcam.
This type of technology is normal for students said Hale.
“Some have been excited by this new technology. Some have been excited to come and try this new technology. Some are a bit more apprehensive and want that face to face interaction," Hale explained.
Officials said they will continue the programs for the rest of the academic year and will reevaluate the effectiveness afterward.
“And see what our numbers look like compared to when we had a psychiatrist on campus versus the telespych and compare our numbers, as well as if the students really enjoyed it or not," said Hale.
According to Hale, VSU is one of very few university telepsych programs across the county.