Under a joint powers agreement, Carlton, Cook, Lake, Koochiching and St. Louis counties — collectively as the Arrowhead Health Alliance — worked with state agencies to create the Arrowhead Telepresence Coalition (ATC). County commissioners comprise the joint powers board. It provides behavioral health care through remote diagnosis and treatment of patients using internet video and audio.
The largely rural Arrowhead region makes up 23 percent of the state’s land but only 6 percent of its population. “So what we needed to do early on was to find more innovative ways to deliver services,” said Dave Lee, a psychologist and director of Carlton County Public Health and Human Services. The region takes its moniker from its pointed shape on the map, wedged between Canada and Lake Superior. Duluth is its most populous city.
Rural Minnesota faces a critical shortage of mental health providers; seven counties in the Arrowhead region have been designated as mental health professional shortage areas, according to ATC.
“In taking the lead for the region,” Lee said, “I didn’t see any other way to start to solve some of these access problems without having tele-mental health capabilities.” Carlton county did a successful “mini-pilot” before the initiative launched regionwide.
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