News & Press

River Edge Health IT Efforts Featured on SAMHSA Website

Now in the second year of a $1 million three-year grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), River Edge’s Information Technology Department has fully developed a number of innovative IT solutions, including telemedicine, a new individual-guided recovery management web portal, an electronic appointment reminder system and computer labs at all outpatient sites in River Edge’s seven-county service area. SAMHSA chose to highlight the River Edge HIT initiatives in its Ideas Exchange website. Here is the story:

A Technology-Based Hub-and-Spokes Approach to Treatment

By Leslie McEllicott

One night a 27-year-old man arrives at the 24-hour crisis service site operated by River Edge Behavioral Health in Milledgeville Georgia at 10:00 PM.  He reports only ‘drinking a lot’, having had seizures in the past when he stopped drinking.  Stat lab work results received a blood alcohol level of .459.  He is tremulous. His palms are sweaty. His blood pressure is fluctuating.  He clearly needs medical detoxification services but refuses. What to do?Clients use the newly installed computer  learning lab at River Edge’s Emery Highway  location. A Health IT grant from SAMHSA funded the lab at Emery, River Edge’s other outpatient  locations and sites at View Point Health.
The covering psychiatrist is busy with other crises, so staff call Shannon Harvey, River Edge’s CEO, a licensed clinical social worker with 20 years’ experience in addiction treatment.  As an LCSW, Shannon holds State credentials that empower her to commit someone to involuntary detox. From her home, 70 miles away, Shannon opens her laptop, logs into the telehealth application, evaluates the man, and completes a 2013 to have him transported for involuntary evaluation/stabilization.  After detox, the man agrees to transfer to a long-term residential recovery service.  He is now actively engaged in recovery.

River Edge — in partnership with View Point Health— has  adopted a hub-and-spokes telemedicine approach to extend 63 year old River Edge’s reach. Since its launch, this health information technology initiative has successfully promoted access to recovery for people across 15 locations, mostly rural, throughout Georgia.

Shannon credits Ali Yallah, the initiative’s project director and a credentialed IT professional, with what SAMHSA site visitors termed River Edge’s “entrepreneurial, forward-thinking, and solution-focused approach.” Ali’s expertise helped River Edge choose VeaMea, a low-cost, easy-to-use, secure application, as their telehealth solution. Now, clinical staff routinely consult remotely to provide diagnosis and intervention services to clients. With a laptop, Internet connection, and webcam, a clinician can assess and treat a client from practically anywhere.

As a part of this project, River Edge also has adopted several other technology-based strategies to serve individuals.  For example, its Smoke Signal system provides digital telephonic reminders to clients about upcoming appointments. Rolled out in 2013, it has already reduced client appointment no-show rates by 12 percent. 

In addition, River Edge has incorporated computer labs at each outpatient site to help individuals served cross “the digital divide.” In the labs, individuals can use self-paced goal-setting and tracking software, build resumes and connect with employment services. The availability of onsite technology is transforming lives. For example, one woman had lost everything due to alcoholism. After receiving services and getting sober, she got her GED and learned new computer skills, including Photoshop. She now publishes a magazine.

Finally, River Edge’s iCareRecovery Web portal promises to be “the Facebook for recovery.” Upcoming enhancements include chat features, blogs, and peer support services for clients when a counselor is unavailable.

Shannon and Ali are passionate about technology.  As Shannon says, “We believe treatment is effective, recovery is to be expected, technology is treatment, and technology is health care.”