Behavioral Health Services in the ER
The Behavioral Clinic of South Texas (BCST) expands access to timely outpatient behavioral services in a clinic setting as well as local emergency rooms and hospitals. The facility in Edinburg is home to the most comprehensive telepsychiatry program in South Texas, which uses existing technology, such as computers and webcams, to remotely connect patients to psychiatrists.
Before the clinic opened, patients waited weeks or months to see a psychiatrist because of a lack of service providers. But today, appointments are set at BCST within 24 hours of referral. Additionally, in many cases, patients have not needed hospitalization for a behavioral health issue thanks to timely evaluations taking place in local emergency rooms and on medical floors.
“The clinic’s goal is to treat patients with mental health symptoms such as sadness, anxiety and anger, since early intervention can help manage the symptoms and may help avoid a crisis situation,” says Linda Cantu, a licensed professional counselor and Director of Assessment and Referral at South Texas Behavioral Health Center. “We want to ensure that patients are being treated with the least restrictive level of care. If we can help a patient avoid the need for inpatient hospitalization through outpatient medication management and supportive treatment, we have met our goal,” she said.
Clinicians observed that behavioral health services were desperately needed in hospital emergency rooms and on medical floors. BCST psychiatrists provide consultations for the ERs at STHS Edinburg, STHS Children’s, STHS Heart, STHS McAllen, STHS ER at Weslaco and STHS ER at Mission. Services are also available at the MHMR clinics in Laredo and Rio Grande City.
If a patient exhibits signs of a behavioral condition in one of the emergency rooms, the telepsychiatry technology is available so the patient can be evaluated quickly while at the ER, instead of traveling to a psychiatrist later. Follow-up appointments, often with the same psychiatrist that first treated the patient, are scheduled upon discharge from the hospital, providing a continuum of care and integration of acute and behavioral services.
Making a Difference for Those in Need
A team of contracted Texas-licensed physicians works with the clinic to provide behavioral health services, including Mumtaz Suleman, MD, who lives in Houston.
Dr. Suleman has been practicing telepsychiatry since 2013, and started working for the clinic when it opened. She is amazed at how receptive the community has been to this unique melding of technology and medicine. “At first, people weren’t sure what it was all about. But through word of mouth and promotion, our patient base is really growing,” she says. “We sometimes have to get an additional doctor to handle the walk-ins.”
Dr. Suleman says that telemedicine might be less intimidating to some people, especially for those who are fearful of doctors. “By interacting with a doctor through a monitor, some patients are more comfortable because it feels less invasive to them.” She says it is one thing to talk about flu symptoms with a doctor, but it is a totally different experience when you are talking about your mental health.
“Our goal is to ensure that the patient feels comfortable and at ease during their session,” she says. “If they feel that we helped them, they will continue to follow their treatment plan. They will also tell others about their experience.”
Patients do not require a referral from a primary doctor or mental health counselor, and walk-ins are welcome, says Dr. Suleman. Services are available to those 15 years of age and up.
“The BCST telepsychiatry program has made a difference in the number of patients who are able to receive care in underserved or geographically isolated areas, which is another goal of this program,” Cantu says.
Telepsychiatry services available at:
- The Behavioral Clinic of South Texas
- STHS McAllen
- STHS Heart
- STHS Edinburg
- STHS Children’s
- South Texas ER at Weslaco
- South Texas ER at Mission
Telepsychiatry Program Information and Appointments
2110 West Trenton Road, Suite B
Edinburg, TX 78539
Hours of Operation:
Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Make an appointment:
Please call 956-383-3281