Rural jail telepsychiatry: a pilot feasibility study

Telemed J E Health. 2005 Oct;11(5):574-7. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2005.11.574.


New York State has a large rural population, and many of the jails in rural areas have minimal or no psychiatric services available on site. Cost of transport to off-site psychiatric services and the safety issues related to moving inmates from a secure building may limit inmate access to appropriate psychiatric services. This feasibility study describes a project that provided telepsychiatric consultation to increase access to psychiatric treatment in an underserved rural jail in upstate New York. Subjects were consenting jail inmates who requested or were found to be in need of psychiatric care. The project provided interactive two-way audio-video communication between the psychiatrist located in an urban university medical center and subjects who were incarcerated 182 miles away. During the project period, 15 inmates were assessed and treated in 37 consultations. Subjects were predominantly young white males with anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders. Services were readily accepted by inmates and staff. Telepsychiatric examination and treatment appears to be a feasible method to increase access to mental health care in rural jails. Future advocacy for increased mental health services in rural areas in criminal justice setting is likely to depend on further evidence of favorable cost benefit.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • New York
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Prisons
  • Psychiatry / methods
  • Remote Consultation / methods*
  • Rural Population
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Telemedicine / methods
  • Treatment Outcome