GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Governor Roy Cooper was in Greenville Tuesday to announce a three-year, $3.2 million grant for expanded telepsychiatry services across the state.

“Those who grew up in rural North Carolina know how hard it is to get access to health care,” said Cooper. “Unfortunately we continue to see it every single day.”

With this multi-million dollar funding, officials said it’ll make it easier to get mental health care virtually.

East Carolina University is leading the way for the North Carolina Statewide Telepsychiatry Program. They’re already operating in several locations statewide but will now add care in six sites specifically for kids and teens.

“It will look just like going to see your pediatrician,” said Dr. Sy Saeed, director of the NC STEP. “You walk in a pediatric clinic to see their pediatrician. Everybody that comes to the site is screened, so it’s not just for people who say I’m anxious or depressed, we screen everyone and based on that, whatever the needs are, we provide that service in that clinic.”

Cooper said it’s needed more than ever for youth.

“Adolescents are showing so many signs of stress these days,” said Cooper. “Clearly social media can be one place, school is another, dealing with the pandemic is another. We know there is a lot of pressure on children and we know their mental health can be adversely affected.”

Congressmen representing Eastern North Carolina said they see the impact this care will have in rural areas like ENC.

“We see patients from two hours north, two hours south, and five to six hours east,” said Congressman Greg Murphy. “We’re in a place where it is so critical for telemedicine. This is now to where we can see and get to those individuals who need help now.”

“We should do everything in our power to get every child a fighting chance to realize the American dream here in Eastern North Carolina and beyond,” said Congressman Don Davis. “This is a big step toward that.”

Many said this push to address mental health is important, especially for future leaders of our state and country.

“They are the future of North Carolina, they are our future workforce,” said NC Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley. “We need them to be strong, healthy and well.”

Officials haven’t yet announced where those six sites will be. They say by March, they’ll name those locations, and then starting on July 1, they’ll be offering care for patients in those locations.

To learn more about the North Carolina Statewide Telepsychiatry Program, visit their website here.