Sanford rolls out new Virtual Behavioral Health Appointments

Published: Apr. 1, 2023 at 5:00 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Virtual healthcare has been around for some time, and has really increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. One local hospital is adding to its virtual healthcare with a new type of healthcare appointment.

At Sanford Medical Center, a new type of virtual healthcare appointment has been rolled out. The health care group will now offer virtual behavioral health appointments. This new service will be very beneficial to patients.

“We are just trying to provide different ways for people to connect on their own terms in the same benefits which is great for the patients, but also for our care providers because it helps them too,” said Brad Schipper, president of Sanford Virtual Health.

Behavioral health refers to mental health and substance use disorders. The reason Sanford wanted to add behavioral health appointments to their growing virtual system was because a lot of areas in North Dakota have shortages to provide care in areas of need. The one area this will help is those who live in more rural parts of the state.

“A lot of those individuals have to travel an hour or more to get to their visits. When you’re talking mental health, sometimes those appointments are every week versus six-month checkups. This can really help us reach them very directly,” said Chelsea Christensen, integrated health therapist at Sanford Health.

Sanford says there is such a crisis with behavioral health and about two-thirds go untreated. They are hoping with this new program that they can break down the stigma of mental health.

“This should be as normal as getting a haircut or going to the primary care physician. Everybody at times needs help and we are here for you if you need help,” said Schipper.

Virtual behavioral appointments are open to people of any age and can be easily scheduled through the health system’s patient portal.

The National Institutes of Health says that there are 57.8 million people living in the United States with mental health issues.