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Berryhill Center launches new program

Uses technology to provide mental health services throughout the region

January 30, 2011
Messenger News

It is estimated that one in four adults suffer with a mental illness. Unfortunately, some of those individuals have no means of receiving the help they need without traveling a long distance. That is why the Berryhill Center for Mental Health has made the commitment to reach these individuals with outreach clinics. For more than 40 years our mission has been: To be the premier provider of behavioral health services to the citizens of our communities and regions by providing quality mental health care in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Today, because of this commitment, patients in rural areas are now able to visit with their psychiatrist through the means of a computer screen; eliminating the need to travel long distances to their appointment, spending less time on the road and less money for gas. It is called telespychiatry. One of the many ways today's technology is improving our lives and the Berryhill Center is very excited to be able to offer it to the outlying communities in north central Iowa.

The need for mental health services

While many of us visit the doctor regularly for our physical needs, our psychological care can be pushed to the side in light of more pressing issues. However, there are many health concerns that are not physical which still require attention, and they fall into the realm of mental health care. In general, mental health care provides support and treatment to optimize a person's emotional and psychological well-being. Your mental state directly affects your body. For example, stress can lead to hypertension, stomach problems and other chronic health issues. People who are mentally healthy are at a lower risk for many health complications.

What is mental health?

Mental health is described as your attitude and outlook on life. Psychological, environmental, genetic or physiological factors have a major effect on overall mental development.

What is mental illness?

Mental illness impairs your ability to perform day to day tasks, have healthy relationships, or cope with anger or stress. It may be described on the basis of extreme mood swings, irrational or destructive thought patterns, and behavioral problems.

It is an illness that most can relate to as stated by Dr. William Menninger, co-founder of the Menninger Foundation. "Mental health problems do not affect three or four out of every five persons, but one out of one." A friend, coworker, family member, neighbor may be suffering from a mental illness.

"Iowa faces many challenges in mental health. We are actually rated the 51st out of 50 states and two territories as far having adequate psychiatric services. This is based on the number of providers per capita, dollars spent per capita and reimbursement for services," states Dr. Monte Bernhagen, a board-certified psychiatrist at the Berryhill Center. For this reason, the Berryhill Center has invested in providing telepsychiatry.

What is telepsychiatry:

Telepsychiatry, or telemedicine, is a form of video conferencing via computer that can provide psychiatric services to patients living in remote areas or underserved areas.

This is a confidential service provided in a professional office location. The psychiatrist is visible on the computer screen and a psychiatric RN is at the outreach location with the client.

Telepsychiatry provides a range of services, including, but not limited to, diagnosis and assessment; medication management; and individual therapy. Telepsychiatry has been shown to improve collaborative services between professionals. Studies indicate that health care professionals have found that telepsychiatry gives them an opportunity to work more effectively as a team.

Telepsychiatry may also provide an opportunity for consultative services between professionals such as psychiatrists, primary care physicians and other health care providers. Telepsychiatry may also be used to provide patients with second opinions in areas where only one psychiatrist is available.

Patients participating in telepsychiatry say they are satisfied with the care they are receiving and that they feel telepsychiatry is a reliable form of practice.

"The telepsychiatry will allow us to reach a much broader area of clientele that may not have been able to receive the mental health care to help them live a productive life. We are very excited about these possibilities," states Dr. Bernhagen.

The new telepsychiatry program was made possible with a state grant through Magellan the T19 provider. The Berryhill Center has been approved for several sites and now has sites here in Fort Dodge as well as Algona, Pocahontas and Humboldt with plans to continue to grow to other sites. This is very important as there are becoming fewer and fewer providers in the state of Iowa and there are also fewer resources available. This allows us to reach out to a much broader area. Also with gas prices escalating, it will be more convenient for our clients to drive to facilities closer to their home.

For more information about telepsychiatry or services provided by the Berryhill Center for Mental Health please call 955-7171 or (800) 482-8305 or visit

Deb Albrecht is executive director of Berryhill Center for Mental Health.



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