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North Florida schools outfitted with telehealth portals

“Our goal is to provide unparalleled access to quality healthcare to in hard to reach communities”

For some North Florida children, the excitement of back-to-school season is secondary to the ongoing trauma of Hurricane Michael.

But Let’s Talk Interactive aims to help those students with telemedicine.

On Tuesday, the company said it installed 63 telehealth kiosks and set up 63 telehealth iPad portals in every public school within six counties that took the brunt of Michael’s devastation last year: Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Franklin, Jackson and Liberty.

The portals were deployed in conjunction with First Lady Casey DeSantisHope for Healing initiative, the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF) and Big Bend Community Based Care (BBCBC). They were funded through insurance, Medicaid and Medicare and grants available through BBCBC.

The Let’s Talk platform will allow local providers to offer counseling services to help children dealing with trauma caused by the storm.

“More than 15 million school-aged children suffer from psychiatric illness across the United States,” Let’s Talk Interactive founder Arthur Cooksey said. “First Lady DeSantis, Big Bend Community Based Care and DCF are spearheading a cutting-edge initiative to tackle one of the nation’s leading crises — mental illness.

“Our goal is to provide unparalleled access to quality healthcare to in hard to reach communities — especially, in this instance, for school-aged children impacted by Hurricane Michael.”

BBCBC tasked Let’s Talk with developing the portals last month, and Cooksey said the company has stepped up to the challenge by completing the assignment in just 42 days.

“We are an experienced team and were able to move mountains with our partners here in the U.S. to combat the crisis facing not only the Panhandle, but also our country as a whole,” he said.

Earlier this month, the success was cheered by Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew, who said the rollout “is going to change not only the lives of children and families in this area of the state, but it holds promise for so many throughout the state.”

Mike Watkins, CEO of BBCBC added, “We were pleased to be the catalyst behind this concept in order to help expand access to mental health services in this area.  These families have suffered enough tragedy and trauma for too long. We are so grateful to the leadership of our First Lady and Secretary [Chad] Poppell at DCF for helping make all this possible.”

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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