As the state begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawaiʻi UTelehealth, a free health service tool developed by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), is reminding the public its behavioral health telemedicine program is still available for neighbor island residents.
The online telepsychiatry and telepsychology platform allows individuals to talk to a licensed professional about worries, stress, anxiety, substance use or other concerns at no charge. The service aims to provide mental health service to rural populations who might experience time constraints, financial burdens and transportation barriers when trying to access services.
Hawaiʻi UTelehealth is staffed with a licensed mental health counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse practitioner and physician. The telehealth platform offers services from telehealth coordinators who can teach patients how to utilize telehealth eligible devices and gain technological literacy. Services are available until August 31, 2023. Call (808) 375-2745 for additional assistance or to set up your first appointment. Translators are available upon request.
The tool was developed by JABSOM in collaboration with the Pacific Basin Telehealth Resource Center in the UH Mānoa College of Social Sciences. Other partners include Hawaiʻi State Rural Health Association and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health.
“These are trying times for everyone. It’s nice to have a number to call to get help,” said Kelley Withy, executive director of JABSOM’s Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center.
Federal Communications Commission support
This month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) selected JABSOM’s Hawaiʻi UTelehealth to be part of its Connected Care Pilot Program, providing $320,535 to support their efforts. The program will offer guidance on eligible services, competitive bidding, invoicing and data reporting for selected participants. It joins other 58 pilot projects being conducted in 30 states plus Washington, DC. The Pilot Program will make available up to $100 million from the Universal Service Fund over a three-year period for selected pilot projects to help defray the costs of providing certain telehealth services for eligible health care providers, with a particular emphasis on providing connected care services to low-income and veteran patients. Read more on the FCC website.
U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, a member of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, has led efforts to expand the use of telehealth services. Last month, he reintroduced the CONNECT for Health Act, the most comprehensive bipartisan telehealth bill in Congress.
“JABSOM has put together an impressive project that uses telehealth to help connect patients across Hawaiʻi with health care providers. This new funding will help launch the project and get more people the care they need,” said Schatz.
For families and households struggling to afford internet services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Emergency Broadband Benefit is a relief program to help bridge connectivity.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband services. Low income households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
Go to GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and to find participating providers near you. After you apply, contact a participating provider to select an eligible plan.