Regence joins bi-national discussions on behavioral health, broadband for telehealth

By Regence
July 20, 2023
PNWER 2023

Main image: Regence BlueShield of Idaho President Mark Ruszczyk speaks at event.

The Pacific NorthWest Economic Region’s (PNWER) 32nd annual summit brought nearly 500 lawmakers, business leaders and policymakers from both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border to Boise in late July, temporarily shifting the balance of power in the region to Idaho.

During the three-and-a-half-day summit, participants attended presentations and panel discussions on issues important to the region including energy security and sustainability, transportation planning, disaster preparedness, and the importance of broadband infrastructure to the delivery of physical and behavioral health services via telehealth.

Regence BlueShield of Idaho President Mark Ruszczyk spoke at the opening day luncheon plenary about Regence’s deep roots in and ongoing commitment to the broad region. He also had the privilege of introducing the next plenary speaker, Idaho Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, who currently serves as PNWER president.

The Wednesday morning panel discussion on regional behavioral health best practices and challenges included Regence Behavioral Health Senior Medical Director Dr. Mike Franz, who spoke about the growing prevalence of behavioral health concerns, the limited number of mental health providers and appointments and the need for earlier intervention – particularly with youth – to catch and address mental well-being issues before they worsen.

Following the behavioral health panel, Regence BlueShield of Idaho Executive Medical Director Dr. Daniel Meltzer joined a discussion on the importance of expanding broadband infrastructure to allow more Idahoans and other people across the region to take advantage of digitally enabled health care. He spoke of the importance not only of wider access to affordable high-speed internet but also the need for broadband literacy – patient familiarity and comfort with using computers and smartphones for medical care.