A new program has begun recently at the Eureka County jail in dealing with the needs of inmates there who might suffer with mental health issues.
Sheriff Keith Logan mentioned in a recent interview, “We are currently working with a company called TeleHealth that is enabling us for the first time to get mental health services into our jail facility.”
Telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely and manage your health care. These may be technologies you use from home or that your doctor uses to improve or support health care services.
Through Telehealth, or some other name, the inmate can actually schedule an appointment with a doctor, specialist or medical professional contracted through TeleHealth in a teleconference visit.
Logan said, “We have only been working with it for a few months and basically it enables us to call into a service, based here in Nevada, and schedule those appointments for a person in our custody who might be in a mental health crisis. Telehealth has the ability to provide all levels of service for us.”
He said, “Then, within a few hours we receive a return call where, via computer or a laptop, the inmate can have a visual conference with a care provider.”
Logan said he had been skeptical of this method for a number of years, “but I have learned from talking to numerous medical professionals that doing a TeleHeatlh remote access patient-to-care provider like this actually removes the stigmas that the person may have of being afraid to say something. They seem to open up more comfortably, to give information.”
After the meeting with the care provider, a report is sent to the jail, “telling us,” Logan said, “what we need to accomplish for this person and we can observe, has the event passed based on their sobering up? Has the event passed based on time and distance, or are they still in acute need?
Logan said after receiving the report, then it is determined what kind of transportation needs to be used to get the person to the appropriate facility for them to continue to receive in-person treatment that may be needed.
If necessary, any prescribed medications can be done through the local pharmacy and distributed to the inmate at times administered by the jail staff.
“What we are finding,” he said, “is not so much a need for medication as it is the need for acute transportation to deal with whatever their real problem is right now so that we are able to get them to the appropriate full-service facility.”
The Telehealth method though, is proving to be faster than previous procedures of maybe the inmate having to be taken to Carson City or Reno and brought back here just to find out what their need is.”
Logan said it is his understanding that White Pine and Lincoln County have been trying to put the program into action as well, with Lander, Elko and Humboldt counties considering the program.
“The bigger cities/towns have ready resources, but the rural counties very often do not,” Logan noted.
He said, “The beauty of this method is that the person is crying for help and the care provider on the screen is doing their best to evaluate and help them as well. It’s a doable system and we have had multiple times to use it. We are very pleased because this is a service we could not do before, and sometimes a critical need in a rural community. A way of getting people help who may be facing a myriad of problems, including depression and substance abuse.”
“There is some cost to the County, Logan said, “because we do get a bill for the person’s treatment.”
On a related topic, Logan said, “We are also hoping to be able to get the pretrial competency evaluation to be done under the TeleHealth/TeleMedicine method also instead of having to drive four to five hours to the hospital and then back again.
He added, “Folks in the state have recognized the importance from their aspect of sending people to help us. It is so important to help get such services out to the rurals because we have the same issues with our people in our community as do the large cities.”