Access to Mental Health Services via Telehealth Expanded – Louisiana Lawmakers

Access to Mental Health Services via Telehealth Expanded – Louisiana Lawmakers

Louisiana lawmakers have passed legislation adding mental health services to the state’s telehealth toolkit and expanding the list of providers able to use the technology.

 – Louisiana lawmakers have passed legislation expanding the state’s telehealth guidelines to include behavioral health services.

Faced with an increase in stress, anxiety and other issues caused in part by the coronavirus pandemic, lawmakers pushed through HB 449, which enables healthcare providers to use connected health platforms to deliver telemental health services and expands the list of providers able to use the technology to include psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners.

The bill now awaits Governor John Bel Edwards’ signature.

During the height of the COVID-19 crisis, many states enacted emergency measures to expand telehealth access and coverage. And while the state of emergency is ongoing, some states have debated continuing that telehealth coverage indefinitely.

That’s particularly true with mental health services. Health insurers has reported a surge in telemental health visits. In May, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts noted that roughly half of its telehealth claims – which surged from 200 a day in February to 38,000 in May – were for therapy and treatment services.

“It’s clear that the mental health impact of the pandemic will be felt for quite some time, even after we start the transition to a new normal,” noted Ken Duckworth, MD, senior medical director for behavioral health at Blue Cross. “Mental health support will continue to be critical as our response to the virus evolves.”

Congress is also considering an expansion of telehealth coverage beyond COVID-19. Last month, more than 30 House members petitioned congressional leaders to continue emergency coverage “for a reasonable transition period following the COVID-19 emergency period to collect appropriate data to provide an adequate amount of time to determine which of those flexibilities should be continued permanently.”

“The mental health of each American is vital to the overall health of our nation. Without proper access to care, we are doing a disservice to those most in need,” US Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), who drafted the letter with US Rep Paul Tonko (D-NY), said in a press release. “The mental telehealth care offered during the COVID-19 pandemic is an important step towards providing more access and quality care for individuals in need, and it’s important that these services continued to be offered following this high-stress time. Telehealth is the future of health care, and we must begin to integrate it when appropriate in order to serve everyone where they are.”

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