Network to bring counseling to the deaf

The Nebraska Information Technology Commission has awarded $25,000 to help

establish a videoconferencing network to get mental health services to hearing-impaired

people.

The state has "not one psychiatrist who can directly treat a deaf person,"

said Peg Goeschel, mental health specialist for the Nebraska Commission

for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The therapists are not trained to communicate

with people with hearing impairments, and they have not been educated about

deaf culture, she said.

"That makes it very difficult for [hearing-impaired people] to explain their

problems to the psychiatrist," Goeschel said.

The videoconferencing network also will make it possible to get mental health

services to parts of the state where there are no trained therapists at

all.

To use the network, therapists will come to commission offices, and staff

members will link remote clients with the therapists and provide interpreters.

The network also will be used to train interpreters around the state and

for in-house training of commission staff members.

Eventually it will become part of a statewide telehealth network for

people who have hearing impairments, and other government agencies will

be able to use the network for teleconferencing and to provide other services.

Demands from courts, hospitals and other organizations over the past two

years for mental health services alone has increased "like you wouldn't

believe," Goeschel said. Other states provide remote counseling for hearing-impaired

people, she said, but usually through computers. The Nebraska network is

believed to be the first that offers statewide videoconferencing.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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