Despite overwhelming evidence supporting telemental health practice, many state regulatory boards have been slow to revise rulings to support telepractice. But with the Affordable Care Act and parity prompting more demand for behavioral health services, interjurisdictional telemental health issues are getting attention from multiple groups, making it a focal point in the battle for general telehealth acceptance.
Not all state licensing boards have recognized telemental health as a viable option or made allowances for helped licensees navigate the many obvious differences between in-person practice and telepractice.
The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) just recently jumped into the behavioral fray by publishing its first report for psychology. This is the third such annual report card for states, whereby the ATA benchmarks progress toward simplified and supportive telehealth regulations. The ATA report card helps decision-makers assess which states are supportive of launching new successful telehealth services and which ones have failed to remove roadblocks that preclude the industry from thriving.
The following states scored the highest on the ATA report card, and therefore represent the friendliest states in the union for telepsychology:
• West Virginia
But the report card noted a fragmented, contradictory and otherwise unsettling array of laws that lack cohesion and forethought. In the midst of this disarray, the ATA also uncovered other issues that make the situation for mental health particularly distressing.
For example, in May 2016, a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) report stated that there are 4,374 Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas (MHPSAs) currently in the United States. Another relevant metric is that 77% of U.S. counties have a severe shortage of mental health workers. In light of these numbers, the ATA report card’s authors Gary Capistrant and Latoya Thomas concluded that despite some minor changes, “… the plethora of policies intended to enhance access to mental health services never meet their true potential due to antiquated concepts reinforcing traditional health care models.” (p.1)
The argument has now reached a crescendo. In most states then, laws clearly need to be changed to allow for telemental health. Advocacy is everyone’s job. Don’t be shy.