Bridging the Gap: Meeting a Tribal Community’s Needs for Quality Care with Integrated Telepsychiatry

The Challenge

Few options for children and adolescents in need

Based in southern Oregon, Cow Creek Health and Wellness Center operates two clinics that provide a full suite of healthcare services to the Umpqua tribe and surrounding community. Like many Native American communities, however, Cow Creek found itself with a significant need for mental health professionals – and no effective way to meet the needs of its members.

The need was particularly prevalent among county residents and patients of the center who struggle with a variety of behavioral health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety and suicide. Additionally, Cow Creek was unable to locate a child psychiatrist for either of its clinics, resulting in patients either going without treatment or traveling anywhere from 60 to 120 miles for child psychiatric care.

Clinical staff viewed the gap in treatment as unsafe and harmful to the community. They knew they needed a clinician, but the recruitment process was difficult and expensive. There were few board-certified child psychiatrists in the region, and Cow Creek would need to find someone who could meet both the clinical and cultural needs of its patient population. The clinic saw telepsychiatry as a way to access a much larger pool of quality clinicians who could serve its patients, regardless of location.

The Solution

Finding the right fit for patients and staff

Being new to telemedicine, Cow Creek looked to Regroup, a leading provider of integrated telemental health services, to match a clinician and meet their mental healthcare needs. With deep behavioral health expertise and a large clinician network, Regroup focuses on finding the right clinician while providing comprehensive support, from program set-up and launch to ongoing assistance at every level.

These all-inclusive elements ensure the best possible outcomes for patients and staff alike.

For Cow Creek, the right clinician was someone who would be culturally sensitive to the challenges that tribal populations face, including intergenerational and historical trauma. Beyond that, they were looking for someone who could get along well with on-site staff members and be “focused on patient care, not ego,” clinic director Dennis Eberhardt says. Regroup matched the clinic with a seasoned child and adolescent psychiatrist with extensive experience treating family trauma and anger management, two areas of focus for Cow Creek patients. The Regroup clinician has been well-received by staff and patients alike, putting patients of all ages at ease while quickly adapting to Cow Creek’s workflows and collaborating with on-site staff to provide seamless, holistic patient care.

In fact, the psychiatrist proved so successful that patient demand quickly exceeded the clinician’s weekly hours. Working with Regroup, Cow Creek was able to expand its services easily to see more patients each week. Cow Creek also turned to Regroup for non-prescribing needs after losing two of its on-site therapists. Regroup provided a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) to serve Cow Creek’s adult population, who has also proven to be an excellent fit. Though many adult patients were initially hesitant about what to expect with an on-screen therapist, the Regroup clinician’s warm and welcoming personality won them over, so much so that the clinic is now looking at expanding her hours as well.

The Results

Positive impact and continued growth

Through its partnership with Regroup, Cow Creek is able to provide exceptional mental healthcare to all its patients, including children and adolescents. Key benefits include:

Convenient access to quality care. With instant on-screen access to experienced, caring clinicians, the entire Cow Creek community is finally getting the mental health support it needs. Children and their families no longer have to travel hours to see a quality child psychiatrist or wait weeks to see a therapist, and feedback from patients has been overwhelmingly positive.

Flexible, affordable resources. While Cow Creek initially began its telepsychiatry program with a single child and adolescent psychiatrist for a few hours a week, the clinic was able to easily expand his time as demand Similarly, as demand for a therapist has grown, the clinic has been able to seamlessly increase its LCSW’s weekly hours. According to Eberhardt, being able to right-size services and only pay for the hours needed is “one of the beauties of telepsychiatry. The flexibility and the ability to scale incrementally like that are very valuable.”

Wraparound support. As it launched telepsychiatry for the first time, Cow Creek found it invaluable to have a partner to guide the organization through every step of the implementation process. Post-launch, Cow Creek knows that Regroup is there to provide support for every aspect of the program, from technical questions to regulatory updates. Although a Regroup Account Manager regularly connects with the team at Cow Creek to see how they’re doing, Eberhardt has continued to report “smooth sailing.”

Success breeds success. As word of the success of its telepsych program has spread, Cow Creek has begun attracting additional mental healthcare providers. One local psychiatrist reached out based on the program’s reputation and plans to join the on-site staff soon. “Earning that type of reputation means lowered recruiting costs, as well as ensuring a top-notch team of clinicians,” Eberhardt says.

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