Libraries across the state are bolstering their community resources

Thirteen libraries across Delaware have improved their community resources by adding telehealth kiosks.

13 libraries across the state have bolstered their community resources with the addition of telehealth kiosks.

The Telehealth Kiosk Program started in three Sussex County libraries with the goal of increasing access to health and social services for Delawareans by providing privacy and high-speed internet for telehealth visits, job interviews, and legal consultations.

“Along with that we have teleservice specialists that can help people with wraparound services,” explained Alta Porterfield, the Statewide Social Innovator for Delaware Libraries. “And that could mean a little bit of anything. Social determinants of health is what our team is all about, working with jobs, housing, and benefits of all types. And just really listening to the people themselves.”

Delaware State Librarian Annie Norman adds that those two pieces working together help meet many needs.

“We have specialists in the library, or specialists that help them get signed up for things, but then they can also access the full specialist remotely by using the teleservices.”

Laurie Wright is a Teleservice Specialist with the Wilmington Libraries. She says she sees people with a variety of needs, including being able to pay their utility bill, or apply for food benefits.

“A library is just a safe haven, I believe. People come in and they feel safe here. It's comfortable. And it's just a good place for people to try to get the help they need,” said Wright.

Porterfield echoes those sentiments, adding that libraries are the perfect community-centered institution to present these services, as the farthest distance between any home in the state and a library is 7 miles.

The need to increase access to technological services, including providing tools and teaching folks how to use them, was exacerbated by the pandemic.

As more services, such as school and doctor visits, moved online, libraries sought to close the access gap faced by many Delawareans.

Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester secured $245,000 for the telehealth kiosk program expansion through the federal Community Project Funding process.

“What we've already seen is that it works, and it has impact,” said Blunt Rochester. “Over 1,000 Delawareans have already been served, and that's before the expansion. So we're very excited about it.”

There are now telehealth kiosks in each county- five in Sussex County, one in Kent County, and seven in New Castle County.

Thanks to the expansion, libraries across the state now have the capability to help someone get their needs met from start to finish.

For example, a Delawarean seeking healthcare can speak to a teleservice specialist about signing up for Medicaid, and then later on down the road use a telehealth kiosk for a doctor’s appointment.

And along with the kiosks and teleservice specialists, chromebooks and Wifi hotspots are also available from libraries to access the internet on the go.

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