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Polk County Brings Mental Healthcare To Uninsured Residents

Impower is a non-profit mental health organization, they are bringing telehealth services to uninsured residents in Polk County.

Polk County added a new name to their healthcare provider network this week. A new contract with Impower will bring behavioral and mental health services to uninsured residents through a telehealth program.

Impower is a non-profit mental health organization based out of central Florida. They responded to a request for a proposal from Polk County to provide more services.

The telehealth program will allow residents to receive services through their smartphone, computer or tablet.

Lee Ann Thomas, Deputy County Manager, said this will help the residents in more rural areas who previously had a difficult time getting to hospitals and other health care providers. There are also Impower sites stationed throughout the county at qualified clinics for those who do not have access to mobile devices.

The contract is part of the Polk Healthcare Plan, a program that provides healthcare for residents who do not qualify for Medicaid, but also cannot afford insurance.

Impower and the telehealth services will compensate for the healthcare coverage that is notably missing from the Polk Healthcare Plan.

“In all the research we’ve done, there’s this shortage, and we need more services,” Thomas said, noting there are 1,483 residents to every 1 mental health provider in the county.

“Even if someone wants to go see a mental health provider, it’s hard to get an appointment,” she said.

This program is being funded by Polk’s indigent healthcare tax. Eligible residents must be uninsured and living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Those who qualify are not required to pay fees or copays for the service.

Bethany Hanson is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news reporter for spring 2018.
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