Virginia’s initiative provides free access to mental health care

RICHMOND, Virginia may be leading the way when it comes to providing online mental health services to those who may not be able to afford them.

After operating as a pilot program for nearly two years, the Virginia Telemental Health Initiative is now active, partnering with clients in 22 different free and charitable clinics across the state with over 100 volunteer therapists working toward licensure.

The initiative is said to be the first of its kind in the United States that not only helps uninsured or underinsured patients receive mental health support virtually, but also supports those in the workforce who are struggling to meet licensure requirements.

Virginia Telemental Health Initiative


Virginia Telemental Health Initiative

Dr. Muriel Azria-Evans with the Health Brigade said many free and charitable clinics may not have any mental health professionals on staff, but through the virtual initiative, clients can meet with therapists located anywhere in Virginia. She said the program could also apply to individuals who have Medicaid but cannot get coverage for counseling services.

“When you think about a clinic that’s purely medical and all of a sudden they say, ‘Wow, basically, we have this mental health resource off site,’ it’s huge,” Azria-Evans said.

Azria-Evans said her clinic is seeing an increase in clients seeking mental health services online, especially those who do not speak English as their first language.

“We have more and more people struggling with depression and anxiety of course,” she said. “Especially the people we serve, a lot of them have transportation barriers.”

Dr.  Muriel Azria-Evans with the Health Brigade


Dr. Muriel Azria-Evans with the Health Brigade

According to a 2023 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, the average wait time to see a therapist is about three months or longer, often due to understaffing.

Those behind the single program say that during its pilot phase, the average wait time was about 11 days. Nearly 2,000 telemental health sessions were planned.

“I think it will, hopefully, build our pool of providers to address some of the shortages,” Azria-Evans said.

Azria-Evans said she doesn’t expect the need for free, virtual mental health services to diminish anytime soon.

“I think it will grow,” she said. “The need is there.”

Health Brigade


Health Brigade

The list below includes all participating charity clinics in Virginia:

  • Adams Compassionate Healthcare Network (Chantilly)
  • Augusta Regional Dental Clinic
  • Blue Ridge Free Clinic (Harrisonburg)
  • Culmore Clinic (Falls Church)
  • Culpepper Free Clinic
  • Powhatan Free Clinic
  • Goochland Cares
  • Greene Care Clinic (Stanardsville)
  • Guadalupe Free Clinic (Colonial Beach)
  • Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic (Woodbridge)
  • Ohlen R. Wilson (Galaxy)
  • Sinclair Health Clinic (Winchester)
  • Bradley Free Clinic (Roanoke)
  • Brock Huges Medical Center (Wytheville)
  • Free Clinic Charlottesville
  • Ministry of Health CrossOver (Richmond and Henrico)
  • Fauquier Free Clinic
  • Frankly County Free Clinic/Bernard Health Care Center
  • Health Brigade (Richmond)
  • Ledwith-Lewis Free Clinic (Tappahannock)
  • Cheekless Clinic (Luray)
  • Shenandoah Community Health Clinic (Woodstock)

Interested patients can contact free and charity clinics directly to determine eligibility and make appointments.
This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to submit a tip.

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