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How Tele-mental Health Can Aid in the Mental Health Prison Reform

Updated: Mar 23

@JasmineDrake. December '19 DrNortonTherapy.com/Blog

Utilizing Tele-mental Health in Prisons for Inmates with Mental Illness

Tele-mental Health

Mental health is an essential element of healthcare that every American should be afforded. Mental health services are one of the ten essential health benefits identified in the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010. A lack of accessibility to mental health services (i.e.: counseling offices, psychology services, etc.) is an obstacle that has continued to be a barrier for individuals receiving treatment, Strenuous circumstances such as lack of transportation, homebound restrictions make it nearly impossible for some individuals to receive adequate mental health services. Tele-mental health is a relatively new method that uses technology versus in-person contact to provide mental health services to clients. This everchanging alternative has been around for about 70 years (Grady et. al., 2011). What started off as a mere conceptualization of what the future of psychiatric services had the potential to look like has expanded into a commonly utilized practice worldwide.

Technological advancements have become a societal norm, so instinctively individuals are becoming more prone to utilize technology in as many ways as possible. Recent analyses have shown that 79% of patients rated tele-mental health services to be more convenient than in-person services (Massachusetts General Hospital). Very similar to Skyping or a FaceTime call, tele-mental health services have proven to be especially popular amongst the “millennial” and “gen Z” populations. The climate of modern society has struck a rise in the positive receptivity of mental health awareness. What makes tele-mental health so appealing: The convenience of being able to practice self-care without leaving the comfort of one’s home.

Mental health professionals typically respond to clients using methods that include instructional videos and video conferencing (Langarizahdeh, 2017). The American Telemedicine Association, which is an organization that focuses on the promotion of healthcare telecommunication, has continued to implement guidelines that ensure competence in all tele-mental health professionals. Our tele-mental health professionals are supervised to help you dissect the problems you are having and create solutions.

Tele-mental Health in Prisons

Although tele-mental health has proven itself to be a convenient mental health service, for some it could serve as the only option. Individuals who are incarcerated only have the option of being services by on-site mental health professionals, and current situations have proven these services are limited.

News related to mental health prison reform




Depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are some of the most commonly documented mental health issues in prisons (Glaser, et. al., 2010). Although incarcerated individuals account for a large percentage of the individuals that suffer from mental illness, they consistently receive insufficient attention in regard to their mental health concerns. This is often based on (at least) one of three internal factors: Lack of access due to funding, minimal access due to location, or an overall lack of concern on the prison’s part (Leonard, 2004). The use of tele-mental could potentially eradicate all of these problems.

Studies have proven the utilization of tele-mental health is capable of saving prisons anywhere from 5 to 6 figures in funds (Deslich, Thistlethwaite, Coustasse, 2013). Tele-mental health services would make this matter easier for all parties. A specific room(s) could be designated for inmates to have video conferences with their respective mental health professionals. If done correctly, this interaction will have the same effect that face-to-face interaction would have had (Hilty, et. al., 2013).

Many staff members have become so conditioned to ignoring the needs of inmates, including those who struggle with mental illness. Implementing tele-mental health services would be less time consuming for these staff members as well. With video conferencing, they do not have to worry about being searched or ensuring that prohibited items are being exchanged. Making this a part of their routine without them having to “go out of their way” would potentially make them more enthused to follow through with it. It also provides a safe yet effective way for mental health inmates to receive essential healthcare.


Deslich, S. A., Thistlethwaite, T., & Coustasse, A. (2013). Telepsychiatry in correctional

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Glaser, M., Winchell, T., Plant, P., Wilbright, W., Kaiser, M., Butler, M. K., & Magnus, M.

(2010). Provider satisfaction and patient outcomes associated with a statewide prison

telemedicine program in Louisiana. Telemedicine and e-Health16(4), 472-479.

Grady, B., Myers, K. M., Nelson, E. L., Belz, N., Bennett, L., Carnahan, L., & Rowe, N. (2011).

Evidence-based practice for telemental health. Telemedicine and e-Health17(2), 131-


Hilty, D. M., Ferrer, D. C., Parish, M. B., Johnston, B., Callahan, E. J., & Yellowlees, P. M.

(2013). The effectiveness of telemental health: a 2013 review. Telemedicine and e-

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Langarizadeh, M., Tabatabaei, M. S., Tavakol, K., Naghipour, M., Rostami, A., & Moghbeli, F.

(2017). Telemental health care, an effective alternative to conventional mental care: A . systematic review. Acta Informatica Medica25(4), 240.

Leonard, S. (2004). The development and evaluation of a telepsychiatry service for

prisoners. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing11(4), 461-468.

Manfredi, L., Shupe, J., & Batki, S. L. (2005). Rural jail telepsychiatry: a pilot feasibility

study. Telemedicine Journal & E-Health11(5), 574-577.

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