Renewed Funding Supports Continued Telepsychiatry Care for Nursing Home Residents

Jul. 19, 2021

A University of Rochester Medical Center pilot project demonstrating that telepsychiatry reduces emergency department visits and re-hospitalizations for nursing home residents has earned long-term funding from the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH). Grant-funded since 2017, the UR Medicine Telepsychiatry Program has helped nursing homes meet quality metrics, lowered nursing home residents’ use of antipsychotics, hypnotics and sedatives, and reduced residents’ depression symptoms compared to traditional approaches.

Michael Hasselberg

OMH recently awarded $6 million to the Department of Psychiatry to continue providing geriatric telepsychiatry to more than 60 nursing homes throughout the state, the third consecutive round of funding. This continuous support makes the initiative the first OMH “legacy program” for the University of Rochester.

“When the Office of Mental Health wants to try something innovative, they have a pot of funding for testing. We’ve been using this pot to build, test and show the importance of the program since 2017,” said Michael J. Hasselberg, Ph.D., Chief of Innovation and Technology in the Department of Psychiatry.

“If it demonstrates that it improves quality of care and delivers of the outcomes of interest, the program receives a sustainable investment by the state. We’re no longer at the mercy of those ‘innovative funds.’ Our program isn’t an ‘unknown’ anymore.”

UR Medicine clinicians have been working with OMH to prioritize the telepsychiatry program in skilled nursing facilities throughout the state, offering valuable mental health services to nursing home residents coping with dementia and mental illness. The renewed funding will support the program’s growth, with the goal of eventually serving the state’s more than 600 nursing homes.


“We’ve been working now with up to 60 nursing homes across the state and we’ve had some really awesome outcomes from the program,” Hasselberg said. “We’ve been able to help discharge more than 400 patients from state psychiatric facilities and they had less than a handful before this initiative. And we significantly outperformed at a lower cost than an on-site psychiatrist or psychiatric nursing practitioner.”

"We’ve become a hallmark in OMH’s portfolio,” Hasselberg said. He credits the program’s team, which includes Geriatric Telepsychiatry Medical Director EJ Santos, M.D., and Senior Health Project Coordinator Lara Press Ellingham, for its success. “I may have been the brainchild behind the program’s design but it’s our amazing multidisciplinary team—the staff, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurse practitioners, and nurses—that makes it all happen.”