JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX) — Survivors of one of the deadliest and most destructive tornado in recent history now have access to new mental health services. The University of Missouri’s school of Medicine are offering to help heal traumatized residents as they rebuild the city of Joplin.

The need for mental health services have greatly increased since May 22 when the tornado hit. According to Ozark Center, Joplin’s only community mental health care facility, calls to the crisis hotline have jumped from 371 calls a month to 1,752 calls between May 22 and July 6.

“These patients are from all walks of life and all ages. Many of them never had mental health problems or had their problems under control before the tornado,” said John Lauriello, MD, chair of MU’s Department of Psychiatry. “When we learned they needed psychiatric services in Joplin, we knew it was our responsibility as Missouri’s flagship university to step up and help.”

More than 15 MU physicians are providing mental health services by using the medical school’s telehealth network. The network’s telecommunications technology allows MU psychiatrists to interact with patients and clinicians who are more than 200 miles away at Ozark Center.

“We launched this service in July to give MU psychiatrists the ability to have real-time, secure and confidential interactions with patients at Ozark Center, which installed its telehealth equipment six months ago,” said Rachel Mutrux, director of the Missouri Telehealth Network. “The network’s videoconferencing capabilities allow users to observe facial expressions and other physical movements, which helps psychiatrists diagnose and treat patients much as they would during face-to-face meetings.”

The tornado has caused anxiety, depression and other mental health problems in patients who have lost loved ones, homes and jobs. MU psychiatrists anticipate treating approximately 20 patients each week through MU’s new telehealth connection.

Missouri officials are seeking government funding to support new mental health service.

Joplin residents who need mental health services may contact the center 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (417) 347-7070, (417) 347-7720 and (800) 247-0661.

Copyright KMOX Radio


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