HIV Specialist - March 2021 - 29

Tele-Behavioral Health Services

The use of tele-behavioral health options during the COVID-19 pandemic has
been met with significant opportunities and challenges. Within MAO's behavioral
health department, tele-behavioral health is defined as remote delivery of behavioral health services through the utilization of a laptop, tablet or mobile telephone
device. Some of our most noteworthy highlights of 2020 included the provision
of both individual counseling and support group services with patients and MAO
team members. Our behavioral health therapists provided psychotherapy, consultations, screenings, and assessments for Ryan White patients.
The following support groups were also launched for agency constituents
during the last six months: (1) Anxiety/Stress Management Support Group; (2)
Coping with Grief and Loss; (3) Civic Health-Pre and Post-Election Anxiety;
and, (4) Sisters Supporting Sisters (a women's only group). Through the use of
tele-behavioral health options, we were able to host our Annual Recovery Month
Celebration virtually. Alongside many opportunities, there were significant challenges which included: (1) patients' unfamiliarity with downloading features on
their preferred device; (2) lack of familiarity with the agency's software platform;
(3) varied levels of comfort and discomfort with the connectivity process; and, (4)
limited capacity on behalf of the provider and patient to collaboratively troubleshoot technology problems. One of our most significant advancements during the
last year was the availability of support staff to assist with developing tele-behavioral health procedures, troubleshooting connectivity challenges with both the
provider and patient, and pre-assessing patients for appropriateness and " fit " for
tele-behavioral health services. A noteworthy observation was that patients who
received tele-behavioral health services expressed very minimal concerns about
privacy and confidentiality issues. Most patients' expressed frustration and anxiety regarding their limited ability to connect to their providers when needed.

DR. LAURIE DILL is a physician with Medical
Advocacy and Outreach (MAO; formerly Montgomery
AIDS Outreach). A native of Alabama, her
undergraduate degree is from Vanderbilt University,
and she attended medical school and residency at
the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical School. She is
Board Certified in Internal Medicine and is certified as an HIV
Specialist by the American Academy of HIV Medicine. She has
done medical mission work in Belize, worked as an Instructor in
Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as
part of their Faculty Development Program, and she has been the
County Health Officer of the Montgomery County Health
Department in Montgomery, AL. She has been treating HIV
patients with MAO since 1996. She was the Medical Director of
MAO from 2006-2019. She currently works on the End the HIV
Epidemic Initiative for MAO and with statewide partners. .

Moving Forward during " Twindemics "

underserved patients and reducing health disparities, and believes

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare what we in the HIV world in the rural
South already knew: the systemic issues of inequality and racism make our
patients more vulnerable to health threats including HIV and COVID-19. We
continue to gain inspiration from our courageous and resilient patients. The
COVID-19 pandemic has brought tremendous challenges. It has also brought
flexibility for innovative care delivery. The pivot to expanded telemedicine services will continue. We say in the Deep South that we have " expertise in barriers
to care, " matched by a willingness to try innovative ways around those barriers.
One next step, as part of MAO's AL ePrEP project funded by HRSA,* will be
piloting home pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) test kits, so that home-based
labs combined with virtual PrEP appointments and MAO's mail-order pharmacy
services are an option to our at-risk community members who already struggle
with geographic and pandemic isolation issues. We are moving forward with
plans to " End the HIV Epidemic " in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, while
trying to keep patients and staff safe and provide excellent care.
To learn more about Medical Advocacy and Outreach (MAO), please visit
www.maoi.org or call (800) 510-4704. You can also follow MAO on Facebook and
Twitter (@MAOofAlabama) HIV
The AL ePrEP project is supported by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP),
Health resources and Services Administration (HRSA), U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS) under cooperative agreement award no. U66RH31459. The information, conclusions, and opinions expressed are those of the authors and no endorsement by
FORHP, HRSA, or HHS is intended or should be inferred.

DR. CORDELIA STEARNS is a graduate of Bryn
Mawr College and the Perelman School of Medicine at
the University of Pennsylvania. She completed internship
and residency at the University of California, San
Francisco, with specialization in Health Equity and
Advocacy at San Francisco General Hospital. She is board certified in
Internal Medicine and certified as an HIV Specialist by the American
Academy of HIV Medicine. She joined Medical Advocacy and
Outreach in 2018, and became Medical Director in January 2020, just
in time for a worldwide pandemic. She is passionate about caring for
that equitable health care is crucial for social justice.

ELANA PARKER MERRIWEATHER currently serves
in the capacity of Director of Behavioral Health for
Medical Advocacy and Outreach/Copeland Care Clinic.
She is responsible for the integration of behavioral health
services including substance abuse and mental health
services into Ryan White Care settings. Elana works to develop the
administrative, programmatic and clinical infrastructure for the
integration of comprehensive behavioral health services to patients
with co-occurring disorders. She has maintained an ongoing
commitment of service to minority and underserved communities that
have been impacted by social and health disparities. Elana is a
graduate of Alabama State University with an advanced Education
Specialist Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Elana has a
fifteen year background in state government through her work with
the Alabama Department of Public Health in the Center for Emergency
Preparedness, Office of Women's Health, Office of Minority Health,
Cancer Division, and HIV/AIDS Division. Elana was also appointed as
the State Reentry Coordinator for a 2 year stint with the Alabama
Department of Corrections. Elana is also a National Certified Counselor
and Board Certified - TeleMental Health Provider through the National
Board of Certified Counselors - Center for Credentialing and
Education.

WWW.AAHIVM.ORG   HIVSPECIALIST  MARCH 2021  

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HIV Specialist - March 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of HIV Specialist - March 2021

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