COLUMBUS — A video-conferencing system installed at Morys Haven in Columbus is delivering mental health services to care center residents in a fraction of the time that it often took two years ago.

Before contracting with Omaha-based Encounter Telehealth a couple of years ago, it could take weeks or a month to lock down an appointment with a mental health professional in Omaha or Norfolk, said Julie Schaecher, who coordinates Medicare services for the care facility 1112 15th St.

“Now it’s a lot quicker,” said Schaecher, noting that the nursing home contracted with Encounter Telehealth because of the area’s lack of sufficient community-based mental health services.

“We’ve been very well satisfied with the Telehealth partnership,” she said.

Encounter Telehealth recently recognized Morys Haven for the partnership the two have forged in providing psychiatric services.

Tara Watchorn, director of nursing, and Jessica Lieberman, social service director and admissions coordinator, recently accepted a certificate of excellence on Morys Haven's behalf from Randy Beckett, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner assigned to the Columbus facility.

Morys Haven’s Omaha-based mental health professional is a cellphone call away from Beckett at any time, providing a one-on-one therapy session at the Columbus facility through a dedicated video-conferencing system. The chat can also be shifted to a resident’s individual room using an iPad.

The quicker access to mental health services has allowed Morys Haven staff to more closely monitor psychotropic medications for such things as dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, well-managed schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and anxiety.

The nursing home staff members have been reducing the usage of psychotropic meds overall and some residents have even gotten off them altogether, Schaecher said.

Whenever meds can be better-managed, a resident’s quality of life is improved, she said.

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