Behavioral health programs to get federal health IT grants

A new government grant program will give a shot in the arm to the use of health IT in the treatment of behavioral health issues.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that over the next three years, it will provide up to $25 million to 29 behavioral health treatment programs across the U.S. Each grantee will receive up to $280,000 annually to purchase Web-based services, smart phones, and behavioral health electronic applications.

The Web services and apps will be used to increase the access of patients to behavioral health providers, especially in remote and underserved areas. The new electronic tools "will enhance communication between patients and healthcare providers to improve discussions about treatment options and decisions, and better manage health," according to the SAMSHA press release.

"One of the most important advances in medicine is the application of information technology to healthcare," SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said. "Technology now offers substance abuse treatment programs new ways to reach people in need of treatment and recovery support with safe, high-quality care."

Although the release does not mention any specific applications, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that specific kinds of electronic health games can help patients with physical diseases like cancer and diabetes. Virtual reality games have also been used to help patients with acrophobia. Perhaps behavioral health apps will be a new frontier in mHealth.

To learn more:
- read the press release
- see the article in Healthcare IT News