RI Delegation Announces $128K to Expand Telehealth at Thundermist Health Center During Pandemic

Jul 8, 2020 Issues: Health Care

Providence, RI – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced that Thundermist Health Center has been awarded $128,347 from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) COVID-19 Telehealth Program to establish robust telehealth services during the ongoing pandemic.

“Telehealth has become a necessity during this pandemic and we must invest in ensuring this technology is effective and accessible for all who need it. This federal funding will help more patients find convenient ways to virtually visit with medical professionals and get the care they need,” said Senator Reed.

“Thundermist has always been a top performer in Rhode Island health care. This federal funding will allow Thundermist to put in place a modern, convenient system to care for patients remotely during this pandemic,” said Senator Whitehouse, who is a sponsor of bipartisan legislation to make telehealth addiction recovery services available beyond the pandemic. “The increased availability of telehealth services in recent months is changing our health care system for the better.”

“The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities underscores the need to promote health equity through expanded access to quality healthcare services,” said Congressman Langevin. “As we continue to practice social distancing, this important federal funding will help connect Rhode Islanders in underserved areas with critical telehealth services provided by the Thundermist Health Center. We cannot leave anyone behind in the fight to overcome this pandemic, and I’m thankful that additional telehealth services will be available to more Rhode Islanders.”

“Telehealth is an important lifeline for many Rhode Islanders, and in the last few months even more so,” Congressman Cicilline said. “Thundermist is working to increase access to doctors and other healthcare personnel for patients who might not have a chance to see one in person. This grant will help even more Rhode Islanders receive the access to care they deserve.”

The federal funding will allow Thundermist to adapt to the new reality of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing care through telephone or telemedicine intervention. The funds will support the purchase of a telehealth platform, telecommunications equipment upgrades, desktop and laptop computers, and videoconferencing equipment to implement telehealth solutions for medical, dental, and behavioral health care during the COVID-19 crisis.

By providing some services remotely, Thundermist can reduce the number of patients and staff members on-site and prevent patients with COVID-like symptoms from visiting a clinic in person. Continuing to provide high-quality health care for low-income, vulnerable populations in an outpatient setting is critical for reducing the burden on local hospitals during this crisis.

“Thundermist is grateful for the advocacy of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation, and to the Federal Communications Commission for approving our award,” said Jeanne LaChance, President/CEO of Thundermist Health Center. “This funding allows us to ensure seamless access to care for patients during the pandemic. Telehealth solutions are critical to keep both high-risk patients and providers safe while continuing to deliver the highest quality care for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, HIV, and opiate use disorder.”

Thundermist provides community-based medical, dental, behavioral health, and social services for medically underserved and uninsured residents in Rhode Island. Thundermist served more than 48,000 patients at three clinical sites in Woonsocket, West Warwick, and South Kingstown in 2018.

Congress appropriated $200 million for the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help patients access health care from the safety of their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.