Grant to further ECU-led telepsychiatry program

June 26, 2014

ECU News Services

A $1.5 million grant from The Duke Endowment will fund further expansion of the Statewide Telepsychiatry Program (NC-STeP), based out of East Carolina University.

The grant was awarded to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Rural Health and Community Care. ECU’s Center for Telepsychiatry began coordinating NC-STeP services in fall 2013.
Dr. Sy Saeed

By using secure, real-time interactive audio and video technology at the bedside, telepsychiatry enables mental health providers to diagnose and treat people needing care at any remote referring site.

"The statewide telepsychiatry program is about providing the best evidence-based care to our patients regardless of where they may be located - large cities or small towns in NC," said Dr. Sy Saeed, principal investigator on the Duke Endowment grant, director of NC-STeP and chair of the Department of Psychiatric Medicine at ECU. "The expansion of the program through this funding will facilitate enhancing community capacity for caring for people with mental illness," Saeed said.

The Duke Endowment grant will be disbursed in two installments – $800,000 in 2014 and $700,000 in 2015 – and will be used to build upon the initial success of the telepsychiatry program. Success of this expansion project will result in improved care for patients and cost savings to participating patients, local hospitals, local law enforcement and state hospitals.

Chris Collins, the director of the Office of Rural Health and Community Care, expressed gratitude for this ongoing public and private partnership.

"The additional resources will complement state funding, allowing the telepsychiatry program to expand statewide," Collins said. "This initiative addresses critical health professional shortages and creates unprecedented community access for individuals in rural and underserved areas to receive treatment for a mental health emergency."

Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed more than $3 billion in grants. The Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.