Long-distance Fees Waived by Telecommunications Partners for Digital Equity

Hagåtña, Guam – Starting February 7, 2023, the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center (GBHWC) will launch its Smart Short Messaging System (SMS) Pilot Project. The project will address longstanding challenges for behavioral health services, including difficulty recruiting for these positions. To help mitigate this, GBHWC is implementing the pilot project to enhance its capacity to meet the mental health needs of clients. This system will decrease no-show rates, increase client engagement, and feature two-way, cyber-secure Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) compliant privacy. Helping to ensure this project’s success is the island’s three telecommunications carriers, GTA, DOCOMO PACIFIC, and IT&E, who have agreed to offer an exemption to GBHWC and its clients by waiving long-distance fees. A limitation to using SMS in Guam is the reach-back connection to SMS aggregators in the U.S. and the application for long-distance charges to the user, which is roughly five to 10 cents per message. 

“Our administration is on the road to automation and maximizing technology to improve the services our government provides to the people of Guam. This pilot project is the first of many in our mission to improve communications, education, and overall healthcare delivery. More than just SMS, this system will relieve our frontline workers of administrative work and enable them to focus on their jobs–performing direct patient care,” said Governor Lou Leon Guerrero.

“Access to health care and access to mental healthcare and behavioral services is a priority of our administration. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the availability and the effectiveness of services provided by the Guam Behavioral Wellness Center, which was once under federal receivership and is now one of the highest-performing Government of Guam agencies,” said Lt. Governor Josh Tenorio. “This public-private partnership is an example of good innovation, and I want to recognize GTA, DOCOMO PACIFIC, and IT&E for their vision and commitment to the island.”

The $281,000 pilot project was awarded to Community Connect Labs and funded through the U.S. Department of Justice Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Grant. 

To view today’s press conference in its entirety, visit facebook.com/govlouguam.


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