Bridging the digital divide: The Need for Equal Access to Information Technology
The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the inequity that exists for people with mental illness in accessing and using information technology. That technology gap also exists between non-profit organizations that serve vulnerable populations and commercial businesses. Technology needs to be regarded as an essential service and access to the internet as a human right. Funding needs to be made available so non-profit organizations can provide essential e-services to their clients. Better technology will allow groups like Coast Mental Health to operate more efficiently and provide more comprehensive and inclusive supports.
Everyone needs access to internet-connected computers and Coast Mental Health envisions a day when each of our facilities serves as a hub where clients can access programming to support themselves. We are currently working on a new initiative to develop e-health programs for community-based mental health care. The high rates of mental illness and addiction combined with the low access levels for traditional in-person mental health and addiction services during the pandemic means there is an urgent need for innovative approaches. Creating these resources now will stand us in good stead for the expected surge in support needs in coming years.
Using Technology to Reach a Wider Audience
If there is a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been the widespread adoption of virtual platforms to keep people connected. At Coast Mental Health, we have taken this opportunity to widen our audience and broaden our impact.
Access to Information Technology
Investments in IT management are needed to help non-profit organizations run efficiently while better serving their vulnerable clients. Improved technology infrastructure along with e-mental health services would provide supports and resources for many more people, including those living in remote areas. Coast Mental Health urgently needs resources to increase internet bandwidth, to enhance security, and to allow us to host e-mental health platforms.
E-learning tools are quickly becoming a critical part of how frontline workers administer essential care to people living with mental illness. Coast Mental Health staff are also keen to get technology into the hands of people who need it the most so they can connect with them.
E-mental health delivers prompt and effective services to vulnerable clients who rely on supports to remain stable. It offers rapid access and shorter wait times and supports can be offered in multiple languages. Services can be customized to an individual’s specific needs. Different formats (audio/video) can be used for those with literacy challenges. E-mental health is cost-effective, has the potential to reach a much larger population, and has been shown to be as effective as face-to-face treatment. It can give the right care solutions when and where they are most needed.
This new era of e-mental health offers great opportunities for us to increase accessibility and efficacy of mental health supports. Existing and evolving technologies have tremendous potential to transform the mental health system and positively change how resources are developed, delivered, and received.
COVID-19 has accelerated the need for us to connect with people living with mental illness in new and innovative ways. Investing in technology upgrades and systems for non-profit organizations will build equity and inclusion and ensure that no one gets left behind.
With your support, we can do more. Say #yesinmybackyard and help #fundmentalhealth.
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