UTICA - With just one touch of a button, a new kind of technology is changing the way the Arc, Oneida-Lewis Chapter is providing care for people with developmental disabilities.
It's a part of a telehealth program called project NVITE -- or Non-Virtual Individualized Telehealth Experience.
It connects clients of the Arc to healthcare professionals virtually, so they don't have to leave their homes.
“We can actually connect visually through our telehealth to an expert in New York City,” said Karen Korotzer, CEO of the Arc Oneida-Lewis Chapter. “They can see the person that we support, our staff are there and it gives us access to providers that we just didn't have before.”
The Arc partners with Project ECHO, or Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, a service that provides psychiatric care to underserved patients, according to the website. The ECHO model started in 2003 as a way to meet local healthcare needs in New Mexico. Sanjeev Arora, a doctor in Albuquerque, was frustrated that thousands of New Mexicans with hepatitis C could not get the treatment they needed because there were no specialists where they lived. Since 2003, the project has evolved to provide specialized medical knowledge and care to people living in rural areas on Medicaid who do not have comprehensive health insurance coverage.
The Arc works with ECHO hubs in New Jersey and California, but there are more 189 hub sites around the world. The Arc uses Zoom, a video conferencing platform, to connect to specialists through ECHO and discuss care for individuals with behavioral health issues. Participants in the conferences can include representatives from group homes, hospital and nursing homes, clinicians or mental health experts.
“That has helped our staff just to understand more about what are some of the unique interventions out there, evidence-based practices that maybe we hadn’t thought of before or tried,” Korotzer said.
The Arc received nearly $1.5 million in funding through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant, which made the telehealth program possible.
The Arc is one of 72 groups around the country that received the grant. The United States Department of Agriculture and Rural Utilities Service also awarded the Arc with $474,258 for the purchase of equipment to help rural communities connect. Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) and Sen. Joe Griffo (R-Rome) helped secured $960,000 in funding for the Arc in 2016. The New York Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program grant was awarded to the Arc to reduce the costs and improve health care delivery using telemedicine.
The project also aims to provide better job training.
‘’You spend your time training staff and then you have staff turning over here, in continual process of that,” said Lucille Myra Esralew, a clinical psychologist for Trinitas Regional Medical Center. “So anything that helps staff feel supported and stay in place and be better equipped to meet the challenges.”
With the funding, the Arc was able to supply all of its locations, including residences, with teleconferencing equipment in Oneida and Lewis counties.
Korotzer said she hopes the Arc will connect with more health experts and similar agencies in the future to provided better quality care.