I’m headed to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest today, to listen to people talk about great new ideas on designing the world we want to live in and to overuse the word awesome with old friends, internet friends and new friends too… but this post isn’t about all that.
This post is about the trailer in the picture above, that was taken from my iPhone in Sedan, Kansas – Population: 1,155. That’s the trailer that people in and around Sedan walk to regularly for mental health services. It’s also the trailer that the team from the Four County Mental Health Center, in Coffeyville, Kansas, drives 50 miles to in order to provide mental health services to part of rural America’s under-served population.
I hung out in Coffeyville and its surrounding towns, with Dr. April Foreman, Karen Bone, ARNP and Tony Wood, because they’ve started using the system I’m leading the development of, Mood 24/7, at Four County and it has started to make a difference. It turns out that even people in America who cannot afford basic transportation, can and do have cell phones that text. So far, these people have been receptive to a service that empowers them to track their moods on a daily basis. And the professionals at Four County, through the prodding of Dr. Foreman, have also come to learn of the benefit that client participation has to offer throughout the treatment process.
More to come on that front.
A Tale of Two Worlds
What I found most interesting about my trip to Coffeyville was the dichotomy of our worlds, and my own naiveté of said dichotomy. I had all but patted myself on the back for figuring out that a $299, 3G enabled tablet and a $20 per month data plan could cause an affordable revolution in the way that care was provided in this part of the country. The one thing that I had taken for granted was connectivity. There are no “data plans” in Sedan, Kansas and the other remote locations that Four County serves, because there is barely even any cell phone coverage at all in these places. This is simple economics, and it escaped me because I live in a bubble: If there aren’t enough people to pay for data plans, then the infrastructure to provide data plans doesn’t get built.
Technology has definitely hit this part of the country, as I couldn’t resist taking the picture of a Blockbuster Video sign in Independence, Kansas. It just doesn’t cover everyone… and it’s these pockets of unconnected people that end up needing help and costing the system the most time and money to provide care, in an era when mental health budgets are being cut by most states.
I think that technology can help mental health professionals provide better care while spending less, to keep up with their shrinking budgets, especially as mobile technology continues to become cheaper. However, the new question in my mind is: How do we connect the unconnected in a cost effective way?