expands mental health services
It is not an exaggeration to say that one mental health treatment specialist can now be in two or more places at the same time. With the use of high definition video teleconferencing equipment and telehealth services, residents of Idaho County now have enhanced access to mental health care providers locally.
In a joint effort with Idaho’s region II Telehealth Services, Syringa Hospital & Clinics (SHC) is able to link patients who reside in or near Grangeville with psychiatrists and practitioners for scheduled treatment services, and therapy. SHC is also able to link Community Treatment team members for coordinating treatment plans, and Syringa providers and clinicians with psychiatrists for continuing education and training programs suitable for delivery over the Region’s telehealth network.
The network upon which telehealth services are to be delivered were funded from the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. The system design resembles a hub-and-spoke model with St. Joseph Regional Medical Center serving as the network “hub”. The interconnected community based programs sites include Syringa Hospital (Grangeville), Clearwater Valley Hospital (Orofino), St. Mary’s Hospital (Cottonwood), and the Department of Health and Welfare Regional HQ (Lewiston). Services and information is transmitted from the central site to the community providers.
The range of mental health services provided to rural consumers over a telemental health network is virtually limitless. All traditional mental health services, which do not involve direct physical contact with the client, can be provided by telemental health. These include patient evaluations, case management, medication management, crisis response, treatment planning, individual, family, and group counseling, case conferences, staff training, and administrative activities.
“The benefits of this program are substantial,” stated Michelle Schaeffer, SHC Clinics Director. “Many patients in our region, who are now being seen via a network, would otherwise have gone unserved,” she added. "They would have had to leave their home communities to receive care, often at great cost to themselves or their families, which isn't a viable option for many people.”
Although mental health services in rural areas remains a critical health service challenge, the use of telecommunications technologies have increasingly helped to surmount that challenge.