Spring 2022

Calling on TeleOutreach

U team breaks down barriers to behavioral, neurodevelopmental, and mental health needs through virtual connection

TeleOutreach interventionist Betul Cakir-Dilek

For a rural Minnesota family with a child who has autism, it’s not unusual to wait two years for a clinical evaluation and intervention. That’s largely due to a shortage of care providers with the right expertise. 

Thankfully, the TeleOutreach Center at the University of Minnesota’s new Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain (MIDB) is working to address such barriers—for behavioral, neurodevelopmental, and mental health needs. 

So instead of a long wait, a family can connect remotely with MIDB experts soon after an autism diagnosis, for example, to learn how to better communicate with their child—weeks or months before the first in-person visit. And soon, care providers hope to be able to connect virtually with adolescents actively experiencing mental health crises, when waiting two weeks for a face-to-face visit just isn’t good enough. 

Because it’s part of the MIDB, the TeleOutreach Center team can seamlessly collaborate with scientists, clinicians, and developmental specialists to provide training and education throughout Minnesota, connect with families and providers in urgent situations, build scalable community connections, and conduct innovative research.

With philanthropic support from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, it’s all coming together, says Jessica Simacek, Ph.D., director of the center and manager of the U’s Institute on Community Integration Telehealth Lab. 

“We’re better understanding how the TeleOutreach Center can help researchers collect more or richer data and reach more families who couldn’t participate before because they lived too far away,” she says. “Thanks to our new location and the opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration, more such projects will happen.”