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The Harris Center awarded $836,243 for Telehealth Services Infrastructure Bookmark

 The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD received $836,243 from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) COVID-19 Telehealth Program to enhance its telehealth service infrastructure. The FCC received funding for this program through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act. The FCC funds will enable The Harris Center to further expand access to behavioral health and intellectual and developmental disabilities services for Harris County residents via telehealth platforms.

The Harris Center provided telehealth services long before the pandemic emergency hit the community through its Clinician Officer Remote Evaluation program, where licensed Harris Center clinicians assess individuals experiencing a mental health crisis to avoid psychiatric hospitalization or incarceration. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, The Harris Center has increased its telehealth capacity by 223 percent in just three months.

 

The Harris Center quickly adapted its service models to provide telehealth services to patients in their homes to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Wayne Young, chief executive officer, addressed the need for swift service modifications stating, “One of the key goals of our strategic plan is to provide care without limitations and increase access to become the most innovative behavioral health system in the country. With the impact of COVID-19 and The Harris Center’s response to protect staff and the people we serve, it is fair to say this strategic initiative has taken a giant leap.”

 

The funds The Harris Center received from the FCC, through the CARES Act, will strengthen its ability to extend access to more Harris County residents in a way that does not put treatment team members or clients at risk during the pandemic. In addition, this technology will reach more people in need of behavioral health supports and decrease barriers to access behavioral health treatment such as a lack of transportation, child care or missed work.  

 

“Telehealth has become an invaluable resource to treat patients during the coronavirus pandemic, including those who need critical behavioral and mental health care,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “From the very beginning, the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program has supported mental health care providers’ efforts to incorporate remote counseling and telehealth for a variety of mental health needs into their care structure. Implementing remote mental health care services to treat patients from the comfort of their home will ensure critical care for Houston residents and their families.”

 

Mustafa Cochinwala, chief information officer, celebrated their efforts as they worked around the clock to boost the capacity of the organization’s information technology systems.

 

“In just two weeks, our team ordered laptops and tablets to provide rapid remote services,” Cochinwala said. “I am so proud of our team for adapting to the new systems and for all those who conducted trainings and provided technical support to ensure we can continue to provide services during these difficult times.”

 

The Harris Center is the state-designated Local Mental Health Authority and Local Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) Authority serving Harris County, Texas. As the largest behavioral and developmental disability care center in Texas, The Harris Center provided care to over 79,000 people in fiscal year 2019. Learn more at TheHarrisCenter.org

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