North Texas Daily

SaferCare opens telehealth centers in two Texas towns

SaferCare opens telehealth centers in two Texas towns

SaferCare opens telehealth centers in two Texas towns
February 10
10:00 2023

SaferCare Texas, a program at the university’s Health Science Center, opened a telehealth center in Jeff Davis County last year as part of their initiative to improve healthcare in rural communities.

The center is the second to open in the last three years, with the first opening in Pottsboro, Texas at the start of the pandemic. The telehealth centers operate in public libraries and give access to online healthcare and counseling services.

“We realized that a telehealth solution would be really good in our county,” said Jeanine Bishop, co-founder of the Friends of the Jeff Davis County Library.

One-hundred twenty-one rural hospitals have closed since 2010, according to the American Hospital Association. Dianne Connery, the director of the Pottsboro Library, said libraries in rural communities supply services such as food security and technological resources.

“Especially in rural communities, we don’t have a lot of the services that more suburban and urban areas would have,” Connery said. “So we really do fill a lot of social service needs.” 

Connery, who has been with the Pottsboro Library since 2011, said the need for a virtual health room arose during the pandemic. After receiving a $20,000 grant from the National Library of Medicine, Connery began to work with the HSC to create a telehealth center out of a storage room. 

Signage for the University of North Texas HSC Regional Simulation Center on Jan 28, 2023. Photo by Lauren Campbell.

“When the pandemic shut a lot of things down, we stayed open because so many people lack access and needed access to the internet,” Connery said. “So we started to get calls early on in the [COVID-19] pandemic.”

Jeff Davis County experienced similar issues when it came to medical assistance. Bishop said prior to the pandemic, residents of Jeff Davis County would drive three hours to Midland–Odessa or El Paso for a “20-minute” checkup.

“When we found out that Pottsboro had done this telehealth room, we talked to [HSC] and they said, ‘Why don’t we work together and do one in Fort Davis?’” Bishop said.

The libraries in Pottsboro and Fort Davis have “a sister-library relationship,” Bishop said. The former Jeff Davis County Library director met Connery at a library conference. Bishop said the two libraries have been sharing information for the last couple of years.

Bishop said Connery also connected Jeff Davis County with the HSC.

“We worked hand-in-hand with the libraries to get [the telehealth centers] up and running,” said Teresa Wagner, interim director and clinical executive at SaferCare Texas. “And then to get access to the provider network, so connecting them with HSC Health.”

SaferCare Texas is a program created to help “improve patient safety,” according to the organization’s website. Alongside the telehealth centers, SaferCare Texas promotes rural health through outreach and training health workers at rural hospitals. 

“When we do outreach to rural hospitals to help them get their people to get certified as a community health worker or for them to do outreach with community-based organizations in their area, we develop relationships with them, and we maintain those relationships over time,” Wagner said. 

On Jan. 4, Wagner said in a press release that “SaferCare Texas strives to bridge communities to health services,” which includes the communities at the university. Alexi Vasquez, a dual degree physician assistant and Master of Public Health student, said that SaferCare does events, webinars, online education and resource connections for the “local population.”

“[SaferCare Texas is] unique in that they can reach the student population at UNT as well as the local population surrounding Fort Worth,” said Vasquez, who is currently interning for Wagner. “They can provide the people with the resources they need to improve their health.”

Communities in-state and out-of-state have reached out to both SaferCare Texas and the two libraries. Connery said she receives “a call a week” asking for information on Pottsboro’s telehealth center.

“I do lots of presentations — I just did one for Aetna Insurance and two libraries in Florida,” Connery said. “The East Texas Foundation came and wanted to see what we were doing so that they could share that with other libraries in east Texas. I get calls from all over the country on how libraries can replicate what we’re doing.”

More information can be found on SaferCare Texas’ website,

Featured Image The front entrance to the University of North Texas Health Science Center on Jan 28, 2023. Photo by Lauren Campbell

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Ismael M. Belkoura

Ismael M. Belkoura

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