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Pennsylvania Development Group Gets Telehealth Grant

Johnstown Redevelopment Authority has been awarded a $1.95 million U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration grant to house a telehealth company in the former Cambria-Rowe Business College building.

doctor at a laptop with a cellphone.
(TNS) — Johnstown Redevelopment Authority in Johnstown, Pa., has been awarded a $1.95 million U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration grant to house a new telehealth company in the former Cambria-Rowe Business College building.

Pittsburgh-based TeleHealth Suite intends to open a new location at the site by the end of 2020.

The building, located on one of the city's main gateways, has been vacant since August 2016 after the college lost its accreditation.

“The Johnstown Redevelopment Authority has worked over the past year to secure the property and the funding with TeleHealth Suites,” JRA Executive Director Melissa Komar said. “Placing the property back into reuse is an important step in redevelopment along the Central Avenue corridor.”

TeleHealth Suite, a company led by President Apryle Horbal, a Richland High School graduate, hopes to employ up to 120 workers at the site.

“I've always been looking for ways to help Johnstown,” Horbal said. “And so the ability for us to do that is really exciting. That's actually the biggest excitement to me is the fact that we're really able to do something to really create jobs in Johnstown.”

U.S. Rep. John Joyce, R-Blair County, 13th Congressional District, added: “The Economic Development Administration is making critical investments in our community that will create jobs, support entrepreneurs, strengthen our workforce, and provide second chances for those struggling with substance use disorder. It is my privilege to work alongside the Trump Administration and the hardworking people of Johnstown to support these new economic opportunities.”

TeleHealth Suite provides health care services and remote patient monitoring, including for individuals recovering from opioid addiction, dealing with geriatric issues and suffering with chronic conditions.

Vickey Pivirotto, TeleHealth Suite's director of operations, called the future site a “virtual care center.”

“It's highly patient-centric, high patient engagement,” Pivirotto said. “We can do remote patient monitoring for chronic conditions, including diabetes, COPD, CHF, also anybody that has substance use disorders. We have high interaction with our remote patient monitoring. We use artificial intelligence-driven analytics. And we personalize the care, so that it's tailored for the member. It's tailored for each person, however that looks.”

State Rep. Jim Rigby, R-Ferndale, 71st Legislative District, who has been involved in the process to help bring TeleHealth Suite to the region for more than a year, said he thinks the business can help with the region's opioid epidemic.

“Sometimes you've got to think outside of the box,” Rigby said. “These guys are doing this with an alternative method of using the telehealth as far as counseling goes.”

Rigby added: “All in all, I was impressed with what they wanted to do when I first heard about it. … It's a step. It's an alternative method. It's trying something different. And hopefully it gets these people the help and the continued counseling they need to where they can work their way out of counseling sessions.”

The benefits of telemedicine have been seen during the current COVID-19 pandemic when people are minimizing contact with other individuals in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, according to Pivirotto. “Telehealth, the technology has been around for decades, not embraced by the medical community, not embraced by a lot of people,” Pivirotto said. “But now it's in high demand. Quite frankly, it's a way to keep doctors, nurses connected with their patients in a safe way right now during this pandemic.”

JRA, TeleHealth Suite and Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership that promotes self-sustaining economic development, will now work to secure the necessary $1.95 million in matching funds necessary to acquire the grant.

“It's actually a very interesting part of this crisis that we're in right now,” Horbal said. “Typically that match would have to come from a state or local institution. And, although that's still an option to us and we certainly are exploring that, because of the crisis that we find ourselves in, there's the possibility that the Appalachian Regional Commission will also be a part of that matching funding or be that matching funding.”

©2020 The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.