I trained New Mexico law enforcement entities in Crisis Intervention Training using the University of New Mexico ECHO network, which is the UNM telehealth system. It’s been around for at least five years.
At the time, I had a few thoughts about telehealth in New Mexico.
– This is the most useful way to reach frontier area peers without a provider spending four hours driving and then spending only 30 minutes with the peer.
– Using telehealth, if licensures were accepted across state borders, states with an abundance of providers could make up for the shortage of providers in New Mexico.
– There are already person to person platforms like Skype, Hangouts, Messenger, etc., easily adpated to telehealth. ECHO seemed redundant.
And mostly, and for all these reasons…
With as many committees I was on, this subject came up over and over, year after year. And my answer to this question was plain:
It is obstructionists who place bureaucratic idealism ahead of what peers need right now that impedes telehealth.
From all the time I spent frustrated around these tables championing for telehealth, I believe the single most obstructing organization in New Mexico by far is Disability Rights New Mexico. This might sound heretical to some, and if telehealth was their only callous sleight against peers I might agree. But it’s such a disappointing pattern of behavior with DRNM it at least superficially comes across as an agenda.
What holds up important services for peers is an attitude of “We must protect the peers before we help the peers.”
And Disability Rights New Mexico seemingly led the charge for delaying innovative critical services for New Mexico peers. Including telehealth.
In so many meetings where Nancy Koenigsberg from DRNM attended, I lamented that when I was in severe mental health crisis I don’t give the tiniest of rat’s asses about constitutionality, I just wanted help. And the only way peers get help is if the services are there. And when these services are tied up in harmful debate at meetings, there are now peers suffering needlessly.
It frustrated me so much I began resigning one committee after another. I’d rather take the easier path of going around a barrier than bashing through it. As a committee member, I was one peer being outvoted. Who needs permission to do the right thing for my friends?
So we’ve got this pandemic, and telehealth sprang into action within a week here in New Mexico, and I have yet to hear one single solitary peer complain about their constitutional rights being violated. Nope. Everyone is so happy they still have providers who care. And providers are so happy to have telehealth obstructionists finally out of the way to do the right thing for the peers they help.
The need for telehealth was immediate. Left to their own, providers and peers did what was needed and it happened in less than a month. My med manager was ready in six days.
Telehealth isn’t going anywhere. And with obstructionists removed from the playing field, peers and providers are using practicality and empiricism to develop the very best telehealth possible for our mental well-being.
My caring belief is the rapid telehealth development in response to immediate pandemic needs is the perfect laissez faire model for peers to directly achieve their true health needs, taking their health into their own hands and not waiting for a committee to tell us what we need. Peers are very aware. So are their providers. Who needs a middleman?
One unforeseen windfall of telehealth is many friends who have difficulty navigating the world now regularly see a provider. In a way, the same can be said for our Stand Up To Stigma zoom groups. Why STS didn’t do this sooner is kind of embarrassing.
Funny story. Since our STS zoom groups started, I occasionally ask peers if they call upon Disability Rights New Mexico for help. The two most considered replies are:
– What do they do?