The Stutsman County Veterans Service Office has a new tool to help veterans get the health care they need, according to David Bratton, Stutsman County veterans service officer.

Stutsman County received a tablet computer from the Veterans Administration for use providing telemedicine service to veterans in the community. The device can be used to provide immediate care for veterans visiting the office or scheduled care if it isn't feasible for the person to travel to Fargo and the Jamestown Community Based Outreach Clinic operated by the VA is booked.

"It is focused on mental health," Bratton said. "That seems to be the issue people have an immediate need for."

Bratton said one possible use would be to connect a veteran with a mental health provider if the person requires immediate assistance while at his office.

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The VA is offering the Clinical Video Telehealth to homes. However, if the veteran doesn't have a computer or high-speed internet access at his or her residence, the equipment can be utilized at the Veterans Service Office located in the lower level of the Stutsman County Law Enforcement Center.

Bratton said the staff would set up the equipment and then give the veteran privacy for the appointment. The equipment can connect the veteran to medical providers in Fargo, specialists at suicide prevention or allow the veteran to order medication through the VA pharmacy.

"It comes loaded with all the VA apps," he said.

The VA will also supply veterans directly with a tablet computer, according to Bryan Watters, VSO supervisor for the North Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs.

"The federal VA recognized there was a mental health provider gap especially in rural areas," Watters said, referring to devices used for remote appointments with doctors and counselors.

Bratton said veterans equipped with mobile tablets can communicate with medical providers even when traveling or working in a farm field.

Watters said the Clinical Video Telehealth program has been around for a while its expansion to the county VSO is new.

Bratton said he believed veterans officials in every county had the ability to utilize the program but wasn't sure how many had the equipment. So far, the equipment furnished to Stutsman County has not been needed but it is kept charged ready for a veteran in need.

"Any time I have the opportunity for another resource for our veterans, I'm on it," he said.