ATA16: VA to establish five new telemental health resource centers

The Department of Veterans Affairs is banking on the promise of telemedicine to improve access to care, announcing this week five new resource centers dedicated to the services.

David J. Shulkin, M.D., VA's Under Secretary for Health, spoke about the new effort Monday at the American Telemedicine Association's annual conference in Minneapolis. It will consist of five VA Mental Health Telehealth Clinical Resource Centers that will help provide mental healthcare to veterans living in remote locations, according to an announcement.

The VA put a heavy emphasis on the expansion of telehealth efforts when it released its proposed fiscal year 2017 budget. The agency's healthcare budget totals $68.6 billion, with $1.2 billion of that earmarked to fund telehealth.

In addition, veterans being treated for mental health issues have shown great interest in using technology to receive care, according to research published at Telemedicine and e-Health.

"These mental health telehealth resource centers will provide our veterans in underserved areas the expert mental health providers they may not otherwise be able to obtain locally," Shulkin said in the announcement. "We know that we are doing more in telehealth than any other healthcare system and connecting mental health providers to areas hard to recruit and retain."

The new centers are set to open in the summer and will be located in Charleston, South Carolina; Salt Lake City; Pittsburgh; and a consortium of facilities in Boise, Idaho; Seattle; and Portland, Oregon. There also is a center already up and running in West Haven, Connecticut.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement