The Texas A&M University Health Science Center, in partnership with CHI St. Joseph, is creating two Texas A&M Telehealth Counseling Clinic sites in Hearne and Franklin as part of a regionwide effort to expand mental and behavioral health service options for rural Brazos Valley residents. 

The service, which consists of 45- to 50-minute video consultations with A&M doctoral student practitioners, is free and available to “anyone looking to access mental health care,” according to Carly McCord, clinical assistant professor in the Texas A&M College of Medicine’s department of psychiatry. 

Individuals interested in utilizing the services can call 979-436-0700 to request an eligibility screening. According to McCord and to a Health Science Center release, the counseling clinic also opened access points in Caldwell and Somerville. 

McCord said research shows that the healthiest counties in the nation have about one mental health provider for every 310 people. Robertson County has the highest — or worst — ratio in the Brazos Valley with one provider for nearly every 17,000 residents. 

The telehealth clinic sites are inside existing primary care provider locations. A Health Science Center release described the expansion of services as another step toward integrating behavioral health in a primary care facility, to give patients the ability to see both their health care provider and behavioral therapist in a single visit. 

According to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Texas ranks 49th out of 50 states in Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas. Nearly

10 million residents of Texas live in shortage areas, and 185 of Texas’ 254 counties do not have a psychiatrist. 

Therapy and counseling is available through the A&M Telehealth Counseling Clinic for individuals, couples and small groups, McCord said. She said people ages 13 and up are eligible and that care will be available in English and Spanish. 

“We are getting care into people’s backyards,” McCord said. 

She said that the model was first piloted in Leon County about a decade ago. McCord said the Leon County Commissioners Court will hear a presentation about centers there in the coming days. 

“It has proven to be a successful model for getting care to those who don’t generally receive mental health care,” she said.

McCord said that for specialty care, including mental and behavioral care, many Brazos Valley residents have to drive to Bryan-College Station, if they can even afford to receive services. The expanded services are funded by a Health Resources and Services Administration(HRSA) grant McCord received in September. 

“The thing that keeps me going is going into rural areas where often times people haven’t had mental health care,” McCord said. “When they get help, they get better, they can go back to work, and their lives change — and that’s because they are getting the care that they need.” 

To learn more, visit www.telehealthcounseling.org. For a free and confidential screening, call 979-436-0700.

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