“I think the biggest thing is [NC-STeP-Peds] has absolutely just crushed the stigma barrier”


NC Youth now have better access to mental health services as part of the expansion of the North Carolina Statewide Telepsychiatry Program (NC-STeP), an initiative of East Carolina University’s Center for Telepsychiatry.

NC-STeP-Peds is funded by a $3.2 million investment from the United Health Foundation (UHF). It continues the foundation’s commitment to work with ECU to address mental health challenges in North Carolina and provide mental health care services to children and adolescents in rural and underserved parts of the state.

NCMS member Dr. Katie Lowry, a pediatrician at Robeson Pediatrics said being part of NC-STeP-Peds brings counseling and psychiatric care into her practice where children and their families are comfortable receiving health care.

“I think the biggest thing is [NC-STeP-Peds] has absolutely just crushed the stigma barrier,” Lowry said. “They’re receiving care in a place that they always receive their care. They don’t have to go to another facility. They don’t have to drive another hour. It’s right here for them, and that has been amazing for our patients.”

NCMS member Dr. Christian Lige, a pediatrician at Surf Pediatrics in Dare County, said NC-STeP-Peds provides more timely care and is an avenue for providing more collaborative care for his patients. Prior to NC-STeP-Peds, the number of patients needing access to mental health services was overwhelming.

“It’s really difficult to wait to see a psychiatrist for a year when a kid is struggling,” Lige said. “I’m hoping that with us talking with the psychiatrist, with our nursing staff and with the social worker, we’ll have a better picture of what’s going on with the patient.”

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