Teleconferencing puts students in touch with psychiatrists

Posted Online: April 30, 2007, 12:00 am
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By Dawn Neuses,

ROCK ISLAND -- The number of students meeting with psychiatrists has doubled since the Robert Young Center for Community Mental Health and Rock Island Intermediate and Primary Academies introduced teleconferencing four months ago.

The program allows the student and doctor to interact over a secure Internet line through a television screen during the school day. The student sits in a private room at the school, while the psychiatrist remains at the Robert Young Center.

"Robert Young recognized the need. The school recognized the need. We worked out a solution to help all parties involved. There are no losers in the situation," said Mike Russell, director of academy development for the school district.

"It's a tremendous treatment opportunity for kids," said David Deopere, president of the Robert Young Center.

Between 10 and 14 students from both academies use the teleconferencing every month. Last week, 12 students attended their once-a-month appointment.

"Children have issues beyond reading, writing and math," Mr. Russell said. "They have all kinds of life issues beyond academics."

The school tries to help meet those needs, perhaps by linking the family with housing assistance or to a dentist or doctor.

"We try to take away all barriers for them achieving in school," Mr. Russell said.

Some students have mental-health issues, which can range from attention deficit disorder to bipolar disorder, needs that go beyond the counseling offered in school, Mr. Russell said.

Professional psychiatric help is available, but the family may not have transportation to get to and from appointments, he said.

Mr. Deopere said the attendance rate for student appointments has doubled from a little less than 50 percent to almost 100 percent since teleconferencing began.

The school sets up the appointments and drives the parent, guardian or child's advocate to and from the school for the appointment.

A Robert Young representative is at the school to check in the children. If any prescriptions are needed, the prescription is taken to a drug store, where a parent can pick it up.

With a parent's permission, the child's teacher can come in and give the psychiatrist feedback on the child's behavior over the past month.

Before, Robert Young Center lead therapist Ann O'Klock said, a child not only would have to be driven to the center, he or she also would have to wait for the appointment. Now, students only miss 10 to 15 minutes of the school day.

"Teleconferencing takes away the barrier, whatever reason they cannot make the appointment," Mr. Russell said. "It is a win-win for us. The kids have the proper medication, and it can be adjusted in a timely manner. The doctor gets to see the child one-on-one with a parent present.

"Bottom line, it helps the child at school and at home," he said.

Robert Young Center psychiatrist Ernest Galbreath said teleconferencing has been shown to provide services at a lower cost, be effective, and students are receptive. "The interest is there and they love it."

Robert Young and Arrowhead Ranch also began a tele-onferencing program four months ago. The equipment for both programs was purchased with grant money from the Trinity Foundation.

Deb Youngblood, Intermediate Academy principal, said parents say they are glad the appointments are at the school because they're familiar with the school and comfortable there.

Mr. Russell said he's also getting positive feedback from parents. "We are pleased we can offer it in a manner that is consistent and with respect and responsiveness to the family and student needs."


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