Overview of AFS’s Telepsychiatry Services

Alternative Family Services provides telepsychiatry services to youth and families within the child welfare system. Let’s dive into what this entails, and why it can be advantageous. 

In Alameda County, Alternative Family Services provides telepsychiatry services to youth and families within the child welfare system.

In Alameda County, Alternative Family Services provides telepsychiatry services to youth and families within the child welfare system.

What is Telepsychiatry?

Telepsychiatry is a branch of telemedicine, which provides psychiatric care remotely through interactive video conferencing. Telepsychiatry provides easy and timely access to needed mental health care in order to better serve youth and families.  

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), telepsychiatry can sometimes be highly advantageous, particularly for providing continuity of care and providing access to care where it might be difficult to obtain necessary services and supports otherwise, among other key benefits.  

As researchers have noted, “Telepsychiatry has demonstrated significant potential to increase access to mental health treatment for several populations who, in the past, may have lacked appropriate care. Barriers to mental health treatment have included geographic distances, high treatment costs, transportation difficulties, and time limitations.” 

The APA did note some potential drawbacks, including the fact that some people may be reticent to fully open up when not in person with a care provider. Nevertheless, “it can create enhanced feelings of safety, security and privacy for many patients.” 

What Does AFS Telepsychiatry Provide?

Here is a high-level overview of the kinds of services and supports AFS is able to provide via our telepsychiatry services: 

  • Consultation and collaboration of care with the clinician. 
  • Mental health evaluation. 
  • Medication assessment. 
  • Prescribing of medication, as needed. 
  • Follow-up care. 

All AFS telepsychiatry staff are appropriately licensed and have extensive experience in providing care. In addition, AFS takes privacy very seriously, and AFS telepsychiatry services are HIPAA compliant. 

Advantages of AFS Telepsychiatry

There are numerous instances in which it may be advantageous to provide high quality, cost effective behavioral health services in this fashion. Let’s highlight some of the key benefits: 

  • Convenient for children and their families: Due to scheduling or travel conflicts, it can sometimes be difficult to schedule needed mental health and behavioral health appointments as needed. Telepsychiatry helps to eliminate these kinds of potential hurdles.
  • Bilingual services in Spanish and English: No matter what language youth and families speak and are fluent in, telepsychiatry ensures that they have access to services and supports in their language.
  • Reduce delays in mental health assessment: Because it removes delays associated with travel, it is often faster to receive a mental health assessment remotely as opposed to in person.
  • Monthly basic physical health assessment: AFS provides remote, telemedicine services both for mental and physical health and well-being.
  • Easy accessibility for children: AFS telepsychiatry services are available to youth of all ages in need of this kind of care and assistance.
  • Technology support for children and their families: For telepsychiatry to be effective, the right technology needs to be in place, including internet-enabled devices and strong Internet connectivity, among other technological and cost constraints. To ensure that youth and families are able to access and benefit from AFS’s telepsychiatry services, we provide technology assistance and financial support, as needed.
  • Supports children’s mental health and well-being: By removing some potential barriers to care, youth we work with are able to access the care and supports they need on a regular, ongoing basis. This is crucial for supporting both their mental health and their overall well-being.
  • Based in Alameda County: AFS provides telepsychiatry services and telemedicine supports to select individuals and their families throughout all of Alameda County.
  • Medi-Cal health coverage accepted: To ensure that AFS’s telepsychiatry services can be accessed and leveraged by anyone who needs it who is working with the agency, Medi-Cal health coverage is accepted for this kind of care. 

Ultimately, AFS builds relationships with counties, with the united goal of strengthening families and communities. 

According to research from 2016 published in World J Psychiatry, “Telepsychiatry represents a highly promising approach to reducing the treatment gap by making it easier for patients, especially those in isolated contexts, to access expert mental health care. There is a robust evidence base for the use of telepsychiatry as a delivery method for mental health services.” 

AFS Telepsychiatry Contact Information 

Currently, telepsychiatry services and supports are available via a referral through Alameda County. 

Alternative Family Services

Alternative Family Services (AFS) provides thoughtful, informed foster care, adoption and mental health services throughout California’s San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Sacramento region. Since 1978, the mission of AFS has been – and continues to be – to support vulnerable children and families in need of stability, safety and well-being in communities through foster care, adoption and mental health services.

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