Telehealth takes off in Klamath Falls
Telehealth is up and running in Klamath Falls, and key community partners appreciate our efforts. On a recent call with Klamath County Drug Court partners, Associate District Director Nora Foster was surprised by compliments about our conversion to telehealth.
Probation Officer Allen Bergstrom said that LCS Northwest has gone “above and beyond” to deliver telehealth services. Some of his clients talked about how cool it is to meet with counselors over telehealth, and treatment is helping them stay clean and sober during a scary time.
Klamath County Circuit Court Judge Dan Bunch thanked LCS for caring for the Klamath community by making sure treatment is still offered. On March 20, our Klamath office closed for in-person services, and opened Monday, March 23 with telehealth for all services.
“I was nervous that some clinicians would fight it at first,” Foster said. “They’ve actually embraced it and most of our clients have embraced it too.”
Before closing the office to clients, employees worked to update all client information. For clients with severe and persistent mental illness, peer support specialists and case managers reached out to them and warmed them up for the idea of telehealth. They helped open a Gmail account if needed, and practiced on Google Meet ahead of a therapy session.
Internet access can be an issue. A local Intranet provider is offering 60 days free services right now, so some clients have signed up. Others drive up to our office, stay in their cars, hook up to our visitor Wi-Fi, and work with therapists over their phones.
“For years we have wanted to do telehealth, and the coronavirus just gave us the push,” Foster said. “We plan to keep using telehealth once this is over.”
All services in Klamath Falls are now using telehealth, including mental health, substance abuse disorder, medication management, supported employment and school-based Project Changes. If a new client calls, the front desk takes all of the person’s information, and then transfers them to a screener. The screener sets them up for telehealth via Google Meet so they can finish the intake process.
“It’s literally business as usual – it’s just in a different format,” Foster said. “The only things that have been a bit difficult are case managers and peer support specialists who work with clients out in the community along with teaching some clients that they can get help in a different way.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, Drug Court clients cannot safely give urinalysis. Foster said they are working on an oral swab where they can watch the client take the swab, and then they drop it into a pre-addressed stamped envelope that goes to a lab.