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Telepsychiatry grant will allow expanded mental health services for adults and children in Kenosha County

Aurora Health Care is committing $250,000 to help more children and adults dealing with behavioral health and substance abuse issues.

Telepsychiatry services will be made available through a collaborative effort between Kenosha County Department of Human Services and Kenosha Human Development Services.

"Through Kenosha County's grant application, we determined there's a significant need in the county and across the state for psychiatry services," Rachel Roller, Senior Vice President of Community and Government Relations with Aurora Health Care tells CBS 58 News. "1 in 4 people will face a substance or mental health issue in their lives. So this grant is going to help expand the services to meet those needs."

The Aurora Health Care Better Together Fund grant will pay for the start-up costs and implementing the new telemedicine program, including personnel, equipment, licensing fees and contractual costs.

Once startup is complete, services will be funded through insurance reimbursement and other contracted arrangements. The new services will be available to adults and children residing in Kenosha and those referred by Kenosha Community Health Center.

"Telepsychiatry is when we have computer set up in living room setting," explained Jeannine Field Executive Director of Kenosha Human Development Services. "Patient can talk with psychiatrist over computer screen and discuss problems and issues. The doctor is able to make a pretty good diagnosis just based on an interaction from a computer screen."

According to 2015 Kenosha County Health Rankings, the county has an insufficient pool of psychiatric practitioners, with one provider for 1,075 people, and even fewer providers who accept Medicaid. Additionally, a 2015 Kenosha County Mental Health Study revealed all local providers have had difficulty recruiting psychiatric practitioners.

Kenosha Human Development Services further estimated 950 callers for psychiatric appointments were turned away in 2015, and tallied a 25 percent increase in adult and juvenile behavioral health crisis contacts over the previous year.

In the past two years, the Aurora Health Care Better Together Fund has provided $15 million in cash and in-kind contributions to more than 50 community organizations, colleges and universities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

Beyond behavioral health, the funds are helping improve access to primary care and sexual assault and domestic violence prevention services.

People who are interested in telepsychiatry should contact the Kenosha Human Development Services office at 1 (800) 236-7188

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