By Mary McPhail Gray
NVW Board Chair
Living in the mountains of Northern New Mexico is special and beautiful, but not without its challenges. It’s a long trip to town when something is needed. Taos Emotional Health & Wellness (TEHW), a program of Nonviolence Works, recognized this as a barrier to mental health treatment for many folks in areas surrounding Taos. To address this community need, TEHW has acquired the technology to provide online counseling services to our clients in Red River, Angel Fire, Costilla, Cerro, and pretty much any location in the State.
Rather than driving one to two hours each way for a one-hour therapeutic appointment, clients can meet with a counselor through their computer, tablet, or via video platform on a secure website.
Many people are familiar with tele-medicine first developed in the 1950s, which has been providing services to rural areas for many years. The video platform enables a patient/client to talk directly with a qualified professional and receive therapeutic services that are covered by their insurance carrier.
Karen House, our clinical director, is already seeing clients with this service, and other NVW clinicians are in training. We have appointments available immediately! Individuals can call NVW at 575-758-4297 and speak directly with our receptionist, Alicia Romero, who can easily guide them through the intake process. Our website is also a great way to connect to our intake process: www.nonviolenceworks.us. However; Alicia is a master at making the job really customer-friendly. Clients who are currently driving some distance for appointments can request to be transferred to the e-counseling program.
Recently, the VA Center in Albuquerque called TEHW/NVW to ask if we could see veterans statewide for online counseling and case management, due to the VA’s current staff shortage. Of course, we agreed to do so as part of of our Battle Back Program offering veterans’ support services. We are currently serving 23 veterans, adding 2 – 3 per week, and are looking for active ways to extend these services.
Does tele-mental health work? Bob Johnson, Viet Nam-disabled veteran and the owner of ZIA Community Services, believes it does. He reports using such a system to interact with a psychiatrist and with a nutrition counselor—and felt that such direct attention was very supportive of his needs. And it saved five hours of driving to Albuquerque and back!
The National Center for Telehealth and Technology (NCTT) states the 87 million Americans live in “mental health provider shortage areas,” and northern New Mexicans are certainly among them. Given the scarcity of mental health professionals, the use of tele-mental health can be a critical asset in providing clinical diagnostic assessments and individual, group, family and marital therapy.
E-counseling has the special advantage of privacy and reducing any stigma that some may feel in driving to a physical site for mental health services. In addition, the Center has evidence that tele-mental health is particularly helpful in service to special audiences, including the elderly, teens, and veterans. A mounting body of research identifies best practices to make it particularly effective.
The e-counseling platform is now available from NVW for all clients who see its advantages. Call us at 575-758-4297 to learn more!
Nonviolence Works has the largest credentialed and licensed behavioral health staff in northern New Mexico. Reach us at www.nonviolenceworks.us or 575-758-4297.
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of NVW and can be reached at 575-779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org