Telehealth Implementation Press Release
LUK, Inc. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 03/19/2020
LUK’s Counseling Services Shift to Telehealth
At LUK we have had the good fortune of receiving funding from the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts through the Foundation’s Activation Fund. This has allowed LUK and its partners, the Community Health Center, Spanish American Center, and CHNA 9, to work together since October 2019 on the implementation of telehealth services. We have been collaborating during the last five and half months and developing policies, procedures, and practices, researching best practices, exploring and securing technologies, and troubleshooting the intricacies of implementation. Then came the coronavirus and the accompanying disease, COVID-19. Our work during the last five and half months placed us in an advantageous position to implement telehealth services and respond quickly to the current public health emergency. LUK’s Telehealth planning team lead by David Hamolsky, Psy.D, Clinical Director, and Tom Hall, Chief Operation Officer, moved to implementation with the help of Brigitte Ferrante, Director of Administration, Shaina Sullivan, Quality Assurance Coordinator, Kelsey Cadran, Director of Management Information Systems, Jim Stacey, Information and Technology Manager and Kaitlyn Coffey, Information and Technology Associate.
We began providing telehealth services as of Monday, March 16, 2020, in a limited manner. On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, we delivered an all-staff training to approximately 200 LUK staff utilizing the HIPAA-compliant teleconferencing platform Zoom. Most of the staff attended the online training from their homes, connecting through their agency laptops. The two-hour comprehensive training gave our staff the capacity to provide telehealth services to our clients through most of LUK’s programs and services consistent with standards of practice, rules and regulations, and emergency guidance. Some of the training topics included the use of Google calendar and Zoom, sharing the screen with clients on the Zoom platform so they can review documents or other content during sessions, how to gain informed client consent for the use of telehealth services, as well as procedures for disconnection of telehealth services and for behavioral health emergencies. Our staff enthusiastically responded to Wednesday’s training and the ability to use teleconferencing with their clients. Telehealth services utilizing teleconferencing is now fully implemented at LUK and well underway. We are providing telehealth services in our outpatient behavioral health clinic services, residential services, and foster care services as originally designed. In addition, we are utilizing teleconferencing in most of our other programs and services across the agency. The training allows LUK staff to continue to provide essential and necessary services to our children, youth, and families who live in our communities.
While some of our funders, including MassHealth and other state contracts, now consider telehealth services to include both teleconferencing and telephonic sessions, we are encouraging and supporting our staff to do teleconferencing the way telehealth services were originally intended. This is particularly important to us because we believe that teleconferencing is a higher quality of telehealth services, and we believe that once the current emergency declaration is over, the state will revert to only reimbursing telehealth services conducted via teleconferencing.
We are all very aware of the impact that COVID-19 is having and can have on our physical health and our economic well-being. Sometimes we may forget that in times of stress our emotional and psychological well-being is critical to our communities being able to make it through a physical health and economic well-being crisis. The social isolation accompanying COVID-19 only compounds the challenges the people we serve face. Telehealth has allowed us to bridge some of that isolation by providing continuity of care to our consumers. Contributing to our communities’ emotional and psychological well-being is core to LUK’s mission. We appreciate the Foundation’s funding and ongoing support, which has been extraordinarily helpful in LUK’s ability to effectively respond in a timely way to our state’s public health emergency.