The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

Videoconferencing To Help Inmates With Mental Health Issues

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This is an innovative and creative solution to a growing problem.  As we continue to criminalize mental illness, there will be more and more need for treatment inside prisons.  At least Canada is aware of this and is looking for solutions that will benefit the prison population as well as the prison budget.

Telemedicine, though not the norm, is becoming more accepted and its use more widespread.  Use in prisons is really a very good idea.

What do you think about this?

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By Joan Delaney
Epoch Times Staff

Ontario prisons implement new program

Thanks to innovative technology, a new initiative to provide treatment for federal offenders with mental health issues will soon be implemented in federal prisons in Ontario.

From a private room at the prison, inmates will be connected by video to a psychiatrist located outside the facility. The specialist will provide care and treatment in the same way as if the two were in the same room together.

The service will be provided by the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN), one of the largest telemedicine networks in the world.

“It gives prisoners better access to mental health which they couldn’t get normally to the same degree,” says Dr. Ed Brown, CEO of OTN.

“It also reduces the requirement to take people out of the prison, and that’s very positive from a number of perspectives as well because it reduces costs. Usually when you take a prisoner out you have to drive them out with some kind of armed guard and that takes several hours, and that certainly costs the prison system a bit of money.”

While other telemedicine services have recently been introduced inside Ontario’s federal prisons, this will be the first time psychiatric services will be provided to inmates via two-way videoconferencing systems.

According to Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), there is a growing prevalence of mental illness within the prison system. In 2008, nearly a quarter of female offenders and 13 percent of male offenders were identified as having a mental health disorder at intake. That represents an increase of 85 per cent and 86 per cent respectively since 1997.

The suicide rate among federally incarcerated inmates is higher than that of the general Canadian population. Studies show that more than 90 percent of suicide victims have a diagnosable psychiatric illness.

Ian Irving, CSC’s Regional Manager, Clinical Services in Ontario, said in a statement that expanding OTN’s existing telemedicine services to include mental health is “the next logical step in providing efficient, quality health care delivery to the federal offender population.”

“Providing offenders with mental health issues access to psychiatric specialists contributes to their rehabilitation and safe, successful reintegration into the community. That’s the ultimate goal,” Irving said.

Brown notes that a shortage of psychiatric specialists currently exists in Ontario.

“There’s a general shortage of mental health providers; there’s a general shortage of psychiatrists pretty much everywhere, and that’s why we think telemedicine is important—not only does it provide access, but it really helps with the distribution of resources.”

He adds that the system “also lends itself to the development of clinical models of care where you can create a team-based care system so the psychiatrist doesn’t have to pull all the weight—they can work with other providers over a distance who can provide a lot of the local care and use the psychiatrist as required to supplement that.”

A not-for-profit organization funded by the Government of Ontario, OTN provides telemedicine services to hospitals and other health-care facilities across the province, including nursing stations in some remote First Nations communities.

“Basically we provide two-way TV video conferencing along with medical devices like hand-held patient exam cameras for a close-up of a wound or a rash, a digital stethoscope to listen to heart or lung sounds, the ability to look into your ears, nose, and throat through an ENT scope, and often x-rays, so that really a health provider can actually examine a patient and can come up with a treatment plan over a distance,” says Brown.

OTN recently completed a trial involving more than 800 patients with one of two chronic diseases: congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. The organization plans to use the success of the trial to expand to other therapeutic areas.

Here’s the link to the original article

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February 27, 2010 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , ,

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