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Arkansas program providing free virtual therapy visits | Mind Matters

Grief, anxiety, and isolation have been at the forefront of the past 16 months. A free telehealth program is helping Arkansans through those struggles.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Grief, anxiety, and isolation have been at the forefront of the past 16 months. AR-Connect, a free telehealth program born during the pandemic, is helping Arkansans through those struggles and more.

"It's urgent care is essentially what we're doing," Tony Boaz, AR-Connect program manager, said.

According to Boaz, the grant-funded program provides short-term mental health services, including therapy and psychiatric medication management, for anyone in Arkansas. AR-Connect started in 2020 and has seen increasing demand ever since.

Patients dealing with mental illness or crisis call and speak with a nurse, who will triage and schedule a telephone or video appointment with a mental health professional.

"From the first call to getting your first scheduled appointment is within 72 hours, so that's kind of unheard of right now," Boaz said.

The AR-Connect call center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 501-526-3563 or 800-482-9921.

By providing up to six appointments, AR-Connect works to help people get the immediate care they need and connect them with resources and long-term treatment options.

"It's serving as a bridge to keep these people connected as well to longer-term providers," Boaz said.

Since its inception, the program has served about 1,200 clients across the state, including many in underserved areas, Boaz said.

Health insurance is not required, and no one pays a penny out of pocket.

"There are people out here ready to help you if you need it," Boaz said. "I don't know what the future holds with COVID, but we're here for everyone."

People in the midst of a mental health emergency should call 911 or visit their nearest emergency room, Boaz said. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.

AR-Connect is among the programs that will receive funding from a recently announced Blue & You Foundation grant for behavioral healthcare.

Click here to learn more about AR-Connect.


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