Telemedicine – A Post from Board Member Socha Cohen, published in the BI Times
Is Doing the Numbers Enough?
Since its inception, the Tele-Medicine program provided on Block Island has serviced 29 patients, three of whom were escorted off-island by the case worker, Tracy Fredericks. Butler Hospital and Brown University offer the services of a psychiatric intern free of charge under the condition that Block Island pay for the salary of a case worker who receives an hourly wage: the more patients she helps, the higher her wage. In conjunction with a large donor, and the financial support of the Town, NAMI-BI has been raising funds to support Tracy’s salary which ranges from year to year depending upon her case load. “We are providing services to a community where there had been none in the past,” says Gloria Redlich, coordinator of the Coalition for Seniors. “Inherent in mental illness is that for many there are obstacles to reaching out for care.”
National data support Dr. Brownstein, NAMI-BI largest donor, stating, “it’s estimated that 30% of people will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives. In all populations studied, 1% suffer from schizophrenia, and 5% have major depression. 9.3% of people 12 and over needed treatment for illicit drug or alcohol use in 2009. Things have gotten worse since then. So whether they’re taking advantage of the telemedicine program or not, it seems likely that a significant fraction of folks on the island are likely to need it sooner or later, and when the population swells to 10,000 or more in the summer months, the need expands markedly.”
Elspeth Crawford, board member of NAMI-BI and leader in Emotional Education, adds, “Provision of health service of any kind is not about monetary capital, e.g. what you get when you re-model the pavilion, it is about social capital, what a healthy community looks like in the future. Not providing the service has hidden costs on the future that affect us all. There would more disruption and expenditure in relation to other community services, and also, each person who is ill is not a lone person, but may have family and others, all of whom, including the ill person, are less able to contribute to our community and economy if their energy has to be directed in countless ways keeping stability.”
“In short, the bad news is that we’re still not serving as many people as we probably should be”, continues Dr. Brownstein, “and we need to figure out how to “market” the program better. The good news is that we have a program to market–one that probably saves lives. What’s a life worth?