Press-Republican

Business

October 6, 2012

Essex County needs more Internet power

ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County is boosting its broadband Internet capabilities now that it’s offering tele-psychiatric consultations.

Faced with a shortage of local psychiatrists, the Essex County Mental Health Department is contracting with Syracuse University for psychiatric services via video link at a cost of $14,000, plus $1,200 for equipment.

VACANT POST

County Mental Health Director Steve LaValley said their part-time psychiatrist left at the end of June.

“We have had the position posted since then without any kind of response whatsoever. We have advertised the position. I have done a lot of outreach to local providers and resources without getting any kind of a response.”

A company called Forefront TeleCare of Emeryville, Calif., will provide the equipment and technical services, Valley said.

“These will be consultations that will be provided to local primary-care physicians and all the health centers around the county and allow us to give some support and provide some services. These will be billable services, so once we see the folks for the consultations we will be able to bill Medicaid or insurance.”

The budgeted funds that would have paid the part-time psychiatrist to the end of the year will be used for the tele-psychiatry instead, he said.

LOCAL PROVIDER

At the same time, the county is switching one of its Internet providers, from AT&T to Westelcom, for a monthly charge of about $1,000.

County Manager Daniel Palmer said AT&T provides only about 3 megabytes of bandwidth, compared with 30 megabytes from Westelcom. The number refers to how much data can be moved over the connection in one second, although real-world speeds are usually somewhat less.

Palmer said the provider change will be less, since the AT&T price is about $1,200 a month. AT&T used existing copper wiring, Palmer said, while Westelcom has much faster fiber-optic lines.

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