Maryland is experimenting with new ways to increase access to telehealth services in the hopes of removing barriers based on income, race, ethnicity and geographic location.
The Department of Health is using $1.5 million in federal funding to pay for smartphones, tablets and high-speed internet access for people seeking help for mental health and substance abuse problems.
Devices will be loaned out to 375 patients over a one-year period across 10 state jurisdictions, which include areas such as Prince George’s, Anne Arundel and St. Mary’s counties, to name a few.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, telehealth has become integral, but it is still out of reach for many of the people who need it most,” said Maryland Secretary of Health Dennis R. Schrader in a news release.
“Our goal is to provide telehealth support to every Marylander, and that includes our most vulnerable patients, to help ensure health care continuity and better outcomes for all,” Schrader said.
Smartphones will go to most adults, while tablets could go to kids, seniors and other adults with vision trouble.
Each participant will receive money to pay for a year’s worth of monthly wireless or internet access fees.
Equipment training and technical support will also be available.
“It is important to address the digital divide so that people with mental health, substance use and co-occurring disorders are more fully able to take advantage of this treatment modality when clinically appropriate,” said Department of Health Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health Dr. Aliya Jones.
The state will also conduct surveys and evaluations to make program changes if it expands to other jurisdictions.