Extra state funding gives inmates access to telepsychiatric services

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County Jail inmates with psychiatric needs will be the beneficiary of an extra $35,000 in state budget funding headed to the county.

Inmates will be able to access tele-psychiatric services , or counseling via remote television video conferences, inside the facility.

Gloversville 6th Ward Supervisor Warren Greene, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee, said today that such telepsychiatric services have never been offered at the correctional facility at Harrison Street and Route 29.

“This would be something new for Fulton County,” he said.

The Human Services Committee last week approved amending the 2017 county budget to accept $35,000 in additional funds approved as part of the state’s 2017-18 budget. The full board will take final action Monday.

The $35,000 in state Office of Mental Health reinvestment funds for Fulton County must be spent by the end of the year.

County Community Services Director Ernest Gagnon informed the committee that the additional funds are 100 percent state funds, requiring no county match. He said the funds are being provided due to the closure of state psychiatric beds.

Gagnon said funding would go to two programs. The first would be provide telepsychiatric services to the Fulton County Jail. He said telepsychiatry would provide consultation on inmates with psychiatric needs through the use of secure video conferencing. Funding would be for equipment, licensure and physician time in the amount of $25,000.

Greene said other types of telehealth are being used in the county, and has been especially spearheaded by Fulton County Public Health Director Irina Gelman.

“The whole telehealth field is expanding,” Greene stated.

Also funded out of the remaining $10,000 will be for a second counseling program involving on-call mental health consultants in the county in the evenings and weekends. Gagnon said rates are being adjusted for the first time in 25 years due to increases in minimum wages and increases to direct care staff. The new rates took effect Monday.

In other committee action involving community services:

∫ The panel passed a proposed resolution to contract with Aubrey Pagan as an independent contractor to provide emergency on-call services at night and weekends through Dec. 31. She has experience as a mental health counselor.

A similar contract through Dec. 31 was proposed for Kara Schulitz as an independent contractor to provide emergency on-call services nights and weekends. She has experience as a mental health counselor in the school system.

Funding for both positions is already within the Community Services Department and is 100 percent state funded.

∫ Gagnon also provided information about the 2017-18 state budget as it impacts the state Office of Mental Health, state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, and the state Office of Persons With Developmental Disabilities. He said the budget includes $50 million in vital access provider funding for behavorial health providers, and $11 million to expand community-services based on regional needs and stakeholder input.

Gagnon reported the state budget includes $30 million in new funding for a total of about $200 million to combat the heroin epidemic.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Chad Fleck

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