Telemental Health at

BVCHD Family Health Center

Left photo: CEO Ray Hino tells of his experience previous to coming to Big Bear Valley,

of using the Telemedicine equipment in ER and ICU.  

Right photo:  Mindy Mueller, Psy. D. explains to the guests and the press about the

TeleConnect Therapies.
    Photos by E.T. Russell


E.T. Russell, June 27, 2013­­­­­____ On Thursday afternoon several curious people from the community, the media and several hospital staff members gathered in the Family Health Center to be introduced to the ‘robot’ or rather Telehealth services, that will being servicing the clinic’s patients, beginning this week. Bear Valley Hospital Interim CEO Raymond Hino, proudly opened the presentation by telling the guests that he had worked with another hospital that had incorporated the Telehealth services. Renee Marquez, Director of Outpatient Clinical Services and Joanne Merrill, FHC Telehealth Coordinator carefully explained the reasons for implementing the new system and how it will be advantageous to patients as well as medical professionals.    

Bear Valley Community Healthcare District’s Family Health Center (BVCHD FHC) is launching a brand new innovative Telemental Health program. This program brings mental health services to Big Bear Valley patients, allowing them to access services locally. The FHC can provide a higher level of care to patients experiencing issues that affect their emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental health is important at every stage of life from childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Mental health problems are common but now local help is available to valley residents.

Services will be accessed via TeleConnect Therapies with Mindy Mueller, Psy.D. and Dawn Sampson, MSW, LCSW. Telehealth services have helped providers and office staff to manage difficult mental health issues. Also, it is an additional resource for doctors and nurse practitioners to access. Dr. Mueller has been utilizing TeleConnect services for approximately 3 years feels that the resource will be beneficial to the community.   

“Last year about 400,000 Americans consulted their therapists online,” says Jonathan Linkous, CEO, American Telemedicine Association. By utilizing the robot, patients are able to see a mental health professional as if they were in the same room. The physician uses a joystick to maneuver the screen that allows them to adjust the volume, eye level, and zoom to assess the patient. The physician can also control patient interaction by allowing a visual of themselves in the corner of the screen or not. This allows the patient to view themselves as the therapist sees them on their screen.

The District’s Family Health Center has organized its efforts to provide support and education to the community and patients utilizing the new equipment. Joanne Merrill, has completed certificates in both the Clinical Telemedicine Clinical Presenter (CTCP) course and the Certified Telehealth Coordinator (CTC) course.

The FHC has two nurses that have completed the CTCP course, with more training in the near future. In March Joanne Merrill, CTC and Renee Marquez, attended the Northwest Regional Telehealth Resource Center Annual Conference and Workshop in Billings, MT. As a proactive step, Joanne and Renee will be applying for two different grants to help expand the program. The FHC is also exploring the possibility of including Telehealth equipment and connections into the District’s Disaster Plan.   

Telemedicine addresses the growing shortage of physicians in rural California, where 20% of all Californians live but only 9% of all physicians practice. — Source: "About Rural—PRIME." University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, 2009. The Telemental Health unit offers the Family Health Center a state-of-the-art telemedicine unit that allows physicians to expand their services and offer high-quality specialty care through an experienced and proven model. This is an opportunity to increase revenue and profit by decreasing the number of patients seeking mental health professionals off the mountain. In addition, it increases physician, employee and patient satisfaction.

The District continues to utilize strategic plan objectives by expanding access to health-care services in the Big Bear community via Telehealth services. To find out if you qualify call the BVCHD Family Health Center at (909) 878-8246. Online visit