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Avera Expands Substance Abuse Treatment to Rural Areas Through Telemedicine


South Dakota’s rural communities often lack resources to combat drug and alcohol addiction. Thanks to a new grant, Avera Health is looking to expand its telehealth services in some under-served areas. 

The Health Resources and Services Administration is awarding Avera a $750,000  grant to expand its addiction recovery services. The project starts with the Avera clinics in Flandreau and Aberdeen.

Malia Holbeck is the outpatient manager for Avera’s addiction recovery program. She says telemedicine can help bridge the gap for areas that lack certain services.

“About 10% of our population struggles with issues related to drug and alcohol use," says Holbeck, "and we’re also recognizing that in our rural communities there’s a lack of access to chemical dependency services.”

She says the program allows those smaller clinics to offer many of the same services as the clinic in Sioux Falls. Patients can receive assessments, individual therapy and group therapy through video chat instead of traveling long distances.

This technology also allows Avera staff to receive professional mentoring and give patient presentations. Holbeck says doctors can also give a gene folio test to determine the best medicine for individual patients.

“So as far as it relates to the grant, you know that’s really going to be able to help patients that might be presenting to their primary care because of an issue that they have with pain, or maybe it is chronic pain,” Holbeck says.

A statement from Avera health says these tests can help prevent future opioid addiction.

Holbeck says the telehealth services are already available at the Flandreau clinic, and hopes to see them at the Aberdeen site in the next 90 days.