A sheriff's deputy pulls up to the emergency room at Scott County Hospital in rural Oneida, Tenn., with an agitated, disoriented passenger who appears to need psychiatric care, maybe even immediate hospitalization. But no one at the county hospital is trained to make that decision. The nearest qualified person is 59 miles across the state, at the Ridgeview Psychiatric Hospital in Oak Ridge.
Only a few years ago a member of Ridgeview's Mobile Crisis Team would have driven for 90 minutes, mostly over winding back roads, to Oneida. During that long wait, the distressed patient could not receive needed treatment, and the ER would have had to deal with a possibly disruptive individual. But today when a call comes from Scott County, the Ridgeview clinician takes a much shorter trip, to a nearby room equipped for videoconferencing.