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Published in CenterView on March 18, 2013
Henderson
Henderson

Delta Regional Authority grant broadcasts UMMC’s mental health expertise statewide

By Matt Westerfield

The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Telehealth Project is set for a major expansion, thanks to a $450,000 grant from the Delta Regional Authority.

Dr. Kristi Henderson, chief advanced practice officer and Telehealth director, said the funding will provide equipment and resources to broadcast education and training around the state, making UMMC’s expertise available to more clinics and institutions across Mississippi.

It is estimated the expansion will eventually create 200 jobs.

“It’s focused on mental health because we have such a shortage of mental-health providers in rural areas of this state,” said Henderson, who explained that there are two goals to the expanded access.

“One is that we will target incumbent health-care workers who are out in the trenches who are not mental-health providers — family doctors, family nurse practitioners — and we will provide web-based portal access to the latest information on how to handle psychiatric behavioral disorders, all kinds of mental health issues that they have to deal with day in and day out, but don’t have the expertise and certifications to do,” she said.

“It’s to develop their skills so they can do a better job with their population.”

The other goal, she said, is to use telehealth services to train community health workers across Mississippi to help local residents navigate the health system by helping them maintain access to health-care providers.

That education also will be specific to mental and behavioral health.

“The grant is going to augment my call center so they can schedule education offerings through our headquarters in Jackson and we can provide that anywhere in the state,” Henderson said.

As part of this initiative, Henderson said UMMC is working toward a partnership with every office of the Mississippi State University Extension System to provide locations for educational teleconferencing. All told, she expects to provide education and training to more than 500 health-care providers and community health workers in the state.

Chris Masingill, Delta Regional Authority federal cochairman, visited UMMC March 5 and toured the Telehealth headquarters in Jackson.

“Because of this investment, Mississippi’s rural care providers and their patients will now be connected to cutting-edge education and medical services — and in a cost-effective manner,” he said in a statement. “Have no doubt, this project will be a model for our nation and a catalyst for our state’s people, their health and our economy.”

The Delta Regional Authority is a multi-state partnership with a congressional mandate to help create jobs, build communities and improve lives in the 252 counties and parishes of the Mississippi River Delta.