Delivering Access to Behavioral Health Support

By on November 2, 2022

When appropriate, Outer Banks Women’s Care offers patients behavioral health support through virtual appointments with ECU specialists.

By Outer Banks Hospital

Our community’s 2022 Health Needs Assessment highlighted access to behavioral health services as a top need in Dare County. While the overall solution will need to be multi-pronged, we’re pleased to announce a new telemedicine service offered in Outer Banks Women’s Care (OBWC). Thanks to an investment from United Health Foundation, the Maternal Outreach Through Telehealth for Rural Sites (MOTHeRS) Project was established in 2020 at East Carolina University (ECU). The program provides support via virtual sessions for those facing highrisk pregnancies, food insecurities, and behavioral health challenges.

While virtual behavioral health support isn’t a new concept, it’s a new offering here on the Outer Banks. “We’ve always had limited resources for behavioral health services given our unique geographic situation and then with the pandemic, there were even fewer options,” said Jonelle Haigh, DO, an OBGYN provider at Outer Banks Women’s Care. “So when ECU offered the program to us, we absolutely wanted to be a part of it.”

Outer Banks Women’s Care seeks to offer support resources for patients dealing with anxiety and depression in order to bridge the gap between what providers are able to do and what requires specialized attention.

Patients of any age who are established with the women’s practice are eligible for this service. Haigh emphasizes that an evaluation with the patient is conducted in the practice before scheduling a telehealth session. “We prefer to understand the patient’s need so we can determine whether or not the virtual approach is appropriate for their condition.”

The telehealth session is conducted in a quiet, private room at the back of the practice. Patients are cared for by both an ECU counselor or psychiatrist and the OBWC provider through a combination of telehealth and face-to-face visits.

The goal is to provide the support that the patient needs so there can be a successful outcome. “We go over the recommendations that were discussed between the patient and clinical social worker (or psychiatrist) so we’re able to help them implement a plan,” said Haigh.

“We’re excited about this option because it allows us to provide more comprehensive care and do so in an environment where the patient can be more comfortable. It just makes sense.”

If you would like additional information about this service, call Outer Banks Women’s Care at 252-261-4885.

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