EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – To help kick start a new program to address the mental health needs of young people in rural communities across Texas, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas have donated $40,000 to the Psychiatry department of TTUHSC of El Paso.

The grant is part of nearly $1.8 million in Healthy Kids, Healthy Families grants Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas issued to 40 community-based organizations statewide in 2022. The initiative focuses on health and wellness and targeting socioeconomic and other health impacts related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Rural Telepsych for Youth complements two existing programs, Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine, and the Child Psychiatry Access Network, that are helping families across West Texas access mental health care for their children.

TTUHSC El Paso serves as the West Texas hub for TCHATT and CPAN.

Eden Hernandez Robles, Ph.D., M.S.W., director of education and research at TTUHSC El Paso, said Rural Telepsych for Youth will benefit residents of 15 rural West Texas counties by offering children in need of mental or behavioral health care up to 12 telepsychiatry sessions instead of five sessions normally offered through TCHATT and CPAN.

Dr. Robles said Rural Telepsych for Youth is already making an impact by providing care for 24 youngsters currently enrolled in the program.

“For young patients in rural communities, accessing mental health care is very challenging – resources are limited and can be located many hours away. Rural Telepsych for Youth serves as an internal referral program for the patients we serve through TCHATT and CPAN. It’s ideal for children who can benefit from additional mental health services.”

Dr. Robles

Cindee Soza, director of large market account management for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas’ South Texas region said a recent study showed there are health care challenges in rural Texas that include:

  • 158 counties that don’t have a general surgeon.
  • 147 counties that lack an OB/GYN.
  • 35 counties that don’t have a doctor at all.

“Telemedicine has really helped address those rural challenges,” Soza said. “TTUHSC El Paso has been a trusted partner and we’re excited to continue collaborating with them. We look forward to impacting Texas youth with this program in these areas, as well as others.”

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