Video Chat? In Rural Areas Combating Drug Addiction, A New Way To Connect With Help

GILES COUNTY, Va. — An older, unemployed man with chronic back pain recently visited Dr. Robert Devereaux, a family physician in this Southwest corner of Virginia.

Devereaux recalled that months earlier, during a routine exam, he found crushed fragments of painkiller pills inside the patient’s nose. Though he refused to prescribe more, Devereaux worries that the man is still getting the drugs and has not recognized his problem or gotten treatment for his addiction.

That story is common here. “There are a lot of patients in denial. … It’s a lot of families that have suffered horribly from this.” And their need for help has not been addressed. “We don’t have enough psychiatrists,” he said, which is also true about addiction specialists. “The mental health issues aren’t going to go away.”

But some health professionals as well as the federal government think they may have a possible solution: using telemedicine to connect patients in need by video chat with faraway physicians who know how to treat addiction.

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