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Published on June 19, 2018

Avera Telehealth Resources Expanding to Combat Substance Abuse

Patients in eastern South Dakota who face substance abuse challenges will have additional services to help them via telehealth.

Avera received a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant to expand behavior health services to fight substance abuse. The Office for the Advancement of Telehealth granted Avera funding for a three-year, $750,000 Substance Abuse Treatment Telehealth Network program.

It will help care teams implement short screening and brief referrals into treatment protocols at participating primary care sites, which include Avera Flandreau Hospital in Flandreau, S.D., and Avera St. Luke's Hospital in Aberdeen, S.D.

The use of telehealth resources can help identify eligible patients through short questionnaires and enroll patients in case management and care coordination services for substance abuse. Avera behavioral health professionals can provide substance abuse treatment via telehealth including individual therapy, group therapy, relapse therapy and medication assisted therapy.

The program also provides staff and provider education through “virtual grand rounds” sessions, using a new-to-South Dakota technology called Project ECHO. Mentoring, patient-case presentations and pharmacogenomics genetic testing that can help prevent future opioid addiction also are parts of the effort.

“This is a great example of how evolving technology in telehealth can provide opportunities for people who need behavioral health services,” said Matthew Stanley, DO, Avera Medical Group University Psychiatry Associates Sioux Falls, who helped secure the grant. “This grant can offer rural residents of South Dakota better access to programs that work. The funding, used in this fashion, can improve the lives of those who face the many challenges that come with substance abuse conditions.”

The program, "Link the Treatment: Avera Rural Substance Abuse Project" will serve people ages 12 and older who have been identified as having substance abuse disorders and who live in the areas these facilities serve.

The Avera sites have committed to screening every patient in the primary care setting for substance abuse, and to provide care coordination services to identified patients. Using telehealth resources, the sites will also provide secure, confidential spaces for telehealth therapy sessions and provider time to operate telehealth equipment and start therapy sessions for the patients.

By tracking relevant and required patient data and providing genetic screening for patients, Avera behavioral health professionals can identify the most effective medications and assist patients as the begin recovery journeys.

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