Rural Health Information Technology

The NC Statewide Telepsychiatry Program (NC-STeP) was developed in response to Session Law 2013-360, directing the Office of Rural Health (ORH) to oversee a statewide telepsychiatry program. This program was instituted so that an individual presenting at a hospital emergency department with an acute behavioral health crisis will receive a timely specialized psychiatric assessment.

  • NC-STeP has been awarded $4 million in State appropriations ($2 million each for SFY14 and SFY15).
  • An additional $1.5 million in philanthropic funding has been awarded to the program by The Duke Endowment.
  • One full-time ORH staff member is assigned to NC-STeP activities.

As of April 2014, there are 32 counties in NC that are classified as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas. These areas have a very low supply of mental health professionals in proportion to the population.

  • The practice of Telepsychiatry allows for the psychiatric evaluation of patients through videoconferencing technology in emergency departments lacking psychiatric staff.
  • This use of technology can reduce patients’ length of stay in the emergency department (which can last for days in some cases) and overturn unnecessary involuntary commitments. This reduces the burden on staff and reduces overall cost.


Questions regarding the Rural HIT Program may be directed to: