Velma Soliz has no car which means she has no way to travel to an hour to The David Lawrence Center in Naples to get treated for her depression.
Soliz has lived through the unthinkable. As a young girl she watched her step father shoot her mother. “I was 12, 13 years old when it happened. Five in the stomach and two in the arm,” says Soliz.
Her mother survived that shooting and cancer, only to be killed by a drunk driver in 2002. Velma also lost her father and sister-in-law.
“Emotionally I was keeping everything in, I was trying to be the strong one,” says Velma.
For the past year, she has gone to the David Lawrence Center’s satellite office in Immokalee once a month for treatment. Her psychiatrist Dr. Eddy Benoit is able to treat her from his office in Naples, thanks to telemedine. A camera, television and phone line allow the two to meet on a regular basis, something they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.
“It’s just a matter of time. This is going to sweep the country,” say David Lawrence Center CEO David Schimmel. He says telemedicine is more cost effective and has improved access at the center by 50 percent.
“If our psychologist has to drive to Immokalee, that’s an hour out and an hour back. That’s a lot of people that could be seen in those two hours,” says Schimmel.
For Velma, the ability to see her doctor without the stress of finding a ride to Naples means everything for her recovery.
“I can see him and he can see me. He’s helped me out a lot, physically, emotionally and mentally,” says Velma.
The David Lawrence Center started using telemedicine in a pilot project to show the state of Florida it was a viable health service. “The project was so successful it convinced Medicaid in Florida that it should include it as a bilable service,” says Schimmel. “It made access to care much easier for people in rural areas and we have a satellite office in Immokalee. That’s the biggest issue in mental health, access to care.”
Schimmel says over the last several years, the Naples Children & Education Foundation has provided over half a million dollars a year to The David Lawrence Center, part of the money has been used to buy the equipment for their telemedicine program.
“It’s immediately improved access to care and we think there are other implications for the future that is going to make it even more cost effective and more meaningful,” says Schimmel.
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