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McLean County Approves Telepsychiatry Treatment To Help Fill Gap

Carlo Robustelli
Jeff Smudde
McLean County Board member Carlo Robustelli said the county offering telepsychiatry services is a short-term solution to address a gap in services.

McLean County Board members moved swiftly to fill sudden gaps in mental health care caused by the Center for Human Services' decision to stop accepting new clients for psychiatric treatment.
The County Board on Tuesday approved an agreement with Pennsylvania-based Genoa Healthcare to provide telepsychiatry treatment for behavioral health referrals.

Genoa will provide video consultations with psychiatrists and advanced practice registered nurses.

Board member William Caisley, R-Normal, cast the only "no" vote, suggesting it’s not an adequate substitute for in-person care.

“I question whether a psychiatric conversation with a psychiatric expert by telephone is going to be much of an improvement over not having one at all,” Caisley said.

Board member Carlo Robustelli, D-Bloomington, admitted the solution is "not perfect," but said county administrators have had to scramble in recent days to provide some level of treatment for the mentally ill, especially during the holidays.

“I do think that some is better than none,” Robustelli said.

County Board Chairman John McIntyre, R-Normal, said he understands the skepticism, especially from older segments of the population, but he said the technology has proven to work.

“I think the average person on the street, including myself, have asked that question at one time or another,” McIntyre said. “We have found it’s been effective at Advocate (BroMenn Medical Center), it’s been effective in the (McLean County) jail system.”

Caisley asked the proposal to be vetted first by the County Board’s health and executive committees. The proposal was fast tracked because it came on the heels of  CHS' decision to stop accepting new psychiatric clients, citing funding cuts from the state and United Way of McLean County.

The county has agreed to pay $210 per hour for consultation by a psychiatrist and $150 per hour by an advanced practice registered nurse. The funding will come from revenue generated though sales tax dollars that was previously earmarked for mental health care.

McIntyre said while the contract is intended to plug a short-term gap in services, the county will reassess the arrangement after the first year of the contract to see if it wishes to continue.

Board member Laurie Wollrab, D-Normal, suggested the County Board develop a method to track its progress “and then be able to determine from there what it is that we need to do and how we need to do it, because I’m not sure that exists at this point.”

McIntyre announced Friday during the McLean County Behavioral Health Coordinating Council the county was creating a mental health triage center to provide 24-hour crisis management.

McIntyre said the telepsychiatry services will be housed at the county government building at 200 W. Front St., Bloomington.

Listen to an interview with McIntyre from GLT's Sound Ideas:

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.