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Leavenworth-based UVCares Behavioral Health named first statewide telehealth service for addiction

The Wenatchee World - 12/7/2023

Dec. 7—LEAVENWORTH — Upper Valley Cares Behavioral Health is the first non-profit organization to offer teletherapy services for drug and alcohol addiction in the state of Washington.

UVCares is headquartered at 11779 Highway 2, Suite 107, in Leavenworth. The office space is where founder and director Rebekah Subido and executive assistant Lilah Poltz coordinate business operations, but the therapy and counseling happen online.

Formerly UVCare Mental Health Clinic, Subido started the service six years ago for emotional support therapy. The telehealth clinic made the transition to its new name as it added an addiction service division on Sept. 25 to incorporate all the services it now provides.

UVCares sees around 46 clients a month and can serve anyone in the state of Washington, but most of its clients come from Chelan and Douglas counties.

Frank Ameduri, a public information officer with the Washington State Department of Health, confirmed UVCares is the first nonprofit approved to do telehealth for substance use and court-ordered substance use disorder treatment, and gambling addiction.

"We were doing this because there's a need," Subido said. "But it's certainly an extra fluff that we are proud of."

With more than 30 years as a Washington Superior Court guardian ad litem and two years as a Seattle police officer, Subido said she often ran into the same four barriers that either prevented or made it difficult for people who are struggling with mental health issues to seek professional help.

The four barriers Subido said the company addresses are part of the organization's mission: affordability, accessibility, bias, and the ability to look within oneself and recognize the need for help.

"We serve the communities by making sure we are addressing those four barriers," Subido said.

Subido said UVCares goes on a sliding scale rate, meaning clients pay based on their income.

"We go by the honor system. We trust they will let us know what they can afford," Subido said. "If there's insurance, we'll bill insurance. We don't want affordability to be a barrier for someone to receive the care that they need."

Providing therapy online is how UVCares addresses the barrier of accessibility, as many people who live in rural areas may have to travel to mental health services, and snow and other kinds of weather can hinder a trip to an appointment, Poltz said. Some clients also have mobility issues as they are elderly or disabled.

In small towns and rural areas, the number of therapists can be limited. Online therapy not only provides more options for people, but also allows privacy for others to attend therapy without the stigma of seeking therapy, Poltz said.

Poltz said if a provider is in a commercial building, like that of UVCares' office with other businesses, people may feel uncomfortable going in, as they might see someone they know.

"A lot of people don't want to sit in the waiting room and have everyone in town know they are going to see the therapist," Poltz said.

Subido and Poltz both agree that there is no shame in seeking mental health care and it should be treated as seeking any other health care.

UVCares addresses the last two barriers of bias and the ability to recognize help by educating clients and community through outreach programs about the importance of mental health care.

There are six therapists staffed for UVCares, all of whom live throughout the state, with two more planned in the future, and they can choose their work hours.

"Our therapists really love that they can have a little more control over their schedule and have some more flexibility that allows them to have a more balanced work-home life doing the telehealth," Poltz said.

Although clients attend therapy online, Subido and Poltz encourage anyone to stop at the business office to learn more about UVCares.

Subido said most of the operations are funded through grants and she welcomes donations at UVCares' donation page. Poltz said UVCares is also looking for volunteers who can assemble furniture at the office and help with the website.

Subido said she and Poltz go by UVCares' motto of "meeting clients where they are at — geographically and emotionally."

"So wherever they are at, we will be there for them," Subido said. "Whatever anyone's struggle is, it's OK because will meet them wherever their struggle is at."

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(c)2023 The Wenatchee World (Wenatchee, Wash.)

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