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Lake Holcombe School District brings telemedicine for counseling services

Lake Holcombe (WQOW) – The Lake Holcombe School District has roughly 300 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

“We’re small, and you can tell from the trip up here, we’re also rural,” said Barb VanDoorn, Lake Holcombe school counselor.

The fact that the school is so rural can make it difficult to get mental health counseling.

“The closest place is about 16 miles away, but there’s a three month waiting list for them to get in,” said VanDoorn.

Thanks to $60,000 going to the district through the state’s mental health grant, Lake Holcombe will soon be able to get their students the help they need with technology.

“It’s going to just be over the computer, real easy. The counselor doesn’t even have to leave their office to provide the service,” said Nicole Califf, behavioral health clinic manager at Prevea.

The new initiative is moving forward thanks to a partnership with Prevea Health. Counselors can tune into a monitor set up by the school and talk with kids one-on-one in a comfortable, private setting.

“Students aren’t missing so much school by having to leave. They’re not going to an outside place where they don’t know the people, the setting, where they’re at. You know, they’re coming to a room they’ve been in before,” VanDoorn said.

The new services not only make it easier for families to have access, but in a technology-focused society, experts say it may also make the experience less stressful for kids.

“With social media being so prevalent, with the screen there, not an actual face-to-face, it’s not as intimidating for the children,” said Califf.

Califf said Lake Holcombe will be the first rural school in Wisconsin to use telemedicine. Over the next year they hope the effort can be used as a template for other schools in similar situations.

“Our hope isn’t just to bring it to Lake Holcombe,” VanDoorn said. “There are so many schools just like us, especially in northwestern Wisconsin, who are rural, have a need, but resources are too far away.”

Mary Pautsch

Mary came to News 18 in July 2019 from Sioux City, Iowa where she graduated from Morningside College with a BA in Spanish after attending Iowa State University for 3 years.

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