Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Monroe County students gain greater access to mental health services through pilot project

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MONROE COUNTY, Ohio (WTAP) – Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted was in Monroe County on Thursday to celebrate the end of Phase One of the state’s Broadband Telehealth Pilot Project.

The project was launched last year in cooperation with Switzerland of Ohio Local School District. Husted says Monroe County was selected because over 70 percent of Monroe County residents don’t have internet access, the district is one of the largest by geographic area is the state, and would likely be of the most difficult places to test the project.

The district’s lone counselor often had to travel an hour or more to meet with a child with behavioral or mental health needs. Now, thanks to the pilot project, Husted says students can meet with counselors in real time, and in a timely manner, using telehealth technology.

Husted says the district also added another counselor, but with the help of the project, they can serve up to four times as many students as before.

Students use federally approved video and audio equipment to meet with one of now two counselors in the district.

Husted said he has been told by school officials that system works well. Now, he’s hoping the district’s experience can serve as a guide for other districts.

“In less than a year after we announced the pilot project, we have delivered access to telehealth services to the 2,000 students and families in the largest, most rural school district in Ohio,” said Lt. Gov. Husted in a news release. “Because this was the most difficult test-case, it now serves as roadmap for all schools in Ohio to deliver health and counseling services to students who previously had difficulty accessing them in a timely manner and who often went unserved.”

Husted announced Phase Two of the project has been launched during Governor DeWine’s Thursday briefing. This phase will work to connect the school district’s existing fiber-optic network to mental health professionals outside of the district. Southeast Healthcare Facilities will be the first project partner to be connected.

According to a news release, the school district has also received a $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to bring broadband into the community.

A blueprint for the telehealth pilot has been released with notes on Switzerland of Ohio Local School District’s program. You can view it by clicking here.

InnovateOhio, BroadbandOhio, the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and the Ohio Department of Medicaid have all played a role in the pilot project.

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