North Carolina | 50 states of population health

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EUGENE WOODS. President and CEO of Atrium Health (Charlotte, N.C.)

On the top challenge

"I believe there has never been a greater need for better access to behavioral health services in our region and across our country than there is today. Nationally, one in five Americans experience a mental health issue, and while the rates of severe depression and suicidal ideation continue to increase year over year, shortages across the behavioral health workforce also continue to rise.

Locally, in North Carolina, 44 counties have been designated with a shortage of mental health professionals, and South Carolina is ranked 50th nationally when it comes to overall access to behavioral healthcare."

On the hospital's response  

"Even though limited funds continue to force many organizations to step away from providing behavioral health services, Atrium Health is leaning in. And steadfast in our mission to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing for all, we are committed to leading the way and creating new models and best practices that can then be duplicated across the nation.

From offering North Carolina's only psychiatric emergency room; to our comprehensive inpatient care; to providing virtual behavioral services — in both primary and pediatric settings — we are moving the needle.

For example, during regularly scheduled primary care appointments, we can connect our patients with a therapist via a secure video connection — right then and there. After the virtual consultation is complete, a flurry of behind-the-scenes activity is activated between our team of psychiatrists, social workers, health coaches and nurse practitioners and, in an impressive amount of time, our patients are provided with guidance and a comprehensive action plan.

Our efforts in virtual psychiatry began in 2014, and today, more than one in four of our physician practices participate in the program. Results have decreased overall depression and anxiety scores by nearly half, and to date, approximately 7,000 patients have been referred for services, with more than 60,000 patient's lives positively impacted.

We're empowering our local communities to take part, too. Since 2015, I'm proud to say that Atrium Health has trained over 10, 000 people in Mental Health First Aid, accounting for more than 25 percent of total participants in the state of North Carolina.

The key to our success is our dedicated teammates and our community — together we can make a difference."

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