News on Telemental Health Services

Advancing critical telemental health services to help individuals with behavioral health issues was discussed at ATA’s Telehealth Capitol Connection (TCC) www.americantelemed.org briefing held on March 28, 2017. The use of technology enables mental healthcare to be delivered to major sectors of the population especially in rural areas in spite of the shortage of professionals.

Neal Neuberger as Senior Policy Consultant to ATA and moderator, opened the event by saying the use of technology in medicine has exploded since providers, patients, and employers see the advantages. However, as he pointed out, there are still policy matters that have to be addressed such privacy, finding eligible providers to deliver mental health care, and reimbursement issues.

Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) https://murphy.house.gov Practicing Psychologist and Commander in the Naval Reserve reports, “Substance abuse and drug addiction is a major problem in this country, but the fact is that many people aren’t able to get adequate treatment fast enough because there are not enough professionals or facilities available to treat the affected population.

As reported, Congressman Murphy was able to secure an additional $15 billion in AHCA with a requirement that states must use the additional resources for mental health and addiction treatment. “We are continuing to build on our successful record to help families in the current mental health and addiction crisis. This additional $15 billion investment represents the largest surge in behavioral health funding in recent history.”

According to “Twelve percent of the 702,000 veterans have successfully received care using telehealth through the VA program”, according to John Peters, Deputy Director, Office of Connected Care, at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, https://connectedcare.va.gov,

He reports, “Patient satisfaction for 304,000 veterans using store and forward telehealth is 94 percent, satisfaction for 307,000 veterans using video telehealth is 92 percent, and for 156,000 veterans using home telehealth, the patient satisfaction is 83 percent.”

He mentioned the bill “The Care Veterans Deserve Act of 2017” (H.R 1152) that was introduced on February 16, 2017. The bill amends the “Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act” to make the VA’s Choice Program permanent and includes veterans with a 50 percent service connected disability.

Currently, a number of vital remote psychiatry services are available to community-based organizations, according to Geoffrey Boyce Executive Director, for InSight Telepsychiatry http://insighttelepsychiatry.com “Today, facing budget constraints, many community-based organizations are choosing to supplement their onsite psychiatric services with remote psychiatric prescriber teams.”

InSight is able to provide correctional facilities 24/7 access to psychiatric treatment within one hour after the request is submitted. InSight is able to respond to on-demand telepsychiatry services quickly to support an inpatient or a home setting crisis situation.

Deborah C. Baker, J.D., Director of Legal & Regulatory Policy in the Office of Legal and Regulatory Affairs, representing the American Psychological Association’s www.apa.org Practice Directorate, wants to see changes in licensing occur that would be specific to psychology.

As Baker explained, “The laws are confusing and a number of questions need to be clarified. To deal with jurisdiction issues, a few years ago, the “Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact” (PSYPACT) was introduced by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

PSYPACT uses model language to discuss where a psychologist is physically related, where the psychologist is licensed to practice psychology, and where the client patient is physically located. Since PSYPACT is only model language, it would need to be passed in at least seven states to come into existence.

Lauren McGrath Vice President Public Policy for Centerstone, https://centerstone.org, a healthcare organization operating for 60 plus years, offers services for health homes, emergency follow-up services, integrated primary care, help for addiction, hospital and crisis services, intellectual and developmental disabilities services,  and also actively helps veterans suffering from PTSD and combat stress.

Today, Centerstone provides mobile and remote assessments in order to facilitate a quick referral for the coordination of care and appropriate treatments. The team is able to see how each person is doing by using a dashboard and if there is a problem, connections can be made by using a bidirectional app or be connected via telehealth.

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