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Spectrum Health Launches School-Based Telehealth Pilot Program

Published Monday, December 30, 2019

Michigan’s Spectrum Health is piloting a school-based telehealth program that aims to give rural high school students better access to telemental health services.

Greenville Public Schools is partnering with the Grand Rapids-based health system to give students at the high school access to a Master’s-level social worker through a telemedicine portal. The counselor, working out of Spectrum Health’s Lakeview Youth Clinic, can schedule as many as a half-dozen virtual visits a day with students who need help but don’t have access through traditional channels.

The service aims to a rural high school that has three counselors and one social worker for 1,200 students and – like so many other schools – is dealing with an increase in behavioral health concerns.

“Kids that are having trouble with relationships with their parents, peer relationships, substance abuse, bullying, social media pressures, issues with friends — the whole gamut,” Katie Thorsen, a telemedicine specialist at Spectrum Health, told the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

Spectrum Health, whose connected health portfolio includes the MedNow direct-to-consumer telehealth service, identified a need for school-based telehealth during a recent community health needs assessment, which is conducted every three years.

Officials said the program will soon be evaluated with an eye toward scaling out to other school districts, some of which have already expressed an interest in the program.

“I think within the next month or two, we'll really see the success of the program and be able to determine where we're going to expand next,” Thorsen said. “But I think it's just going to be the beginning.”