Virtual Mental Healthcare Has Expanded Access to Care: Let’s Keep It That Way
As millions of people dealt with social isolation and trauma during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new method of mental healthcare delivery rose to meet heightened demand: telehealth.
A study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found more people used telehealth for the first time during the height of the coronavirus pandemic for mental health services than for physical ailments. The study also highlighted the difficulty in sustaining these services without significant public policy changes by federal and state officials.
Ensuring continued and equitable access to virtual mental healthcare services is complicated; Providers and insurers have had to pivot quickly to protect patient privacy and create new billing processes.
What’s being done to address this?
- DBSA has endorsed the Tele-Mental Health Improvement Act in both the Senate and House, which would address a range of private insurance provider issues.
- The Telemental Health Care Access Act of 2021 in the Senate would address Medicare issues.
- Physician fees under Medicare were expanded last year to provide reimbursement for a range of provider types. With revised rulemaking currently underway, DBSA will be reaching out to advocates with more information about this soon.
- Healthcare providers have been given permission to render services across state lines.
Accessing telehealth services can be challenging now, given the many overlapping state and federal regulations. For more information, visit the Health Resources and Services Administration website.
Access to telehealth was a priority concern for DBSA before the pandemic and continues to be. Stay tuned for more information about actions we are taking and how you can join us.
Protect Your Personal Health Information in a Crisis
Every individual has the right to ownership of their personal health information, including deciding with whom that information is shared. But how are patients’ rights protected when they are incapacitated and unable to communicate the type of care they want?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) guarantees this right of ownership over personal health information to the individual. Title II of HIPAA provides patients with the right to establish who has access to their information and selectively choose to whom it can be disclosed.
Incapacitation can be a hardship for family members and loved ones who might want to be involved with their loved one’s care but cannot because of HIPAA guidelines.
Fortunately, the U.S. legal and judicial system provides a solution for this hardship through a Psychiatric Advance Directive (PAD). A PAD is a legal document created by an individual outlining how they wish to receive care if they cannot communicate with doctors. The document identifies family or loved ones who can be informed, involved, and even have the legal authority to make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person. Any facility receiving Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement is required to accept a legally executed PAD.
DBSA believes HIPAA guidelines should not be different for individuals who live with mood disorders. DBSA supports PADS and believes there should be initiatives to allow PADs to be easily accessed. Read DBSA’s policy position paper on Personal and Civil Rights: Privacy of Personal Health Information to learn more about this topic.
How to Talk With Your Doctor
According to SAMSHA, one in five American adults experiences a mental health condition each year. Knowing how to talk with your doctor is vital to getting on a path to wellness.
Overwhelming feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression can prevent us from taking initial steps in receiving treatment. However, with helpful tools, such as the ones offered in this article by the American Academy of Family Physicians, starting a conversation with your doctor about mental health concerns can be empowering.
Check out their printable checklist, which prompts you to write down physical, emotional, mental, and behavioral symptoms, along with current medicines and questions you may have for your doctor.
Coming up at DBSA
Please join the DBSA community in our Virtual Leadership Summit taking place September 27 to October 1, 2021. The advocacy track of the summit will show you how to:
- Use DBSA programs to change public attitudes around mental health.
- Deploy simple techniques to engage in legislation and public policy.
- Promote the value of peer support and amplify the peer voice.
- Take practical steps toward effective self-advocacy.
Learn more about the summit and register here:
DBSA is conducting a survey of its various supporters and identified our advocacy program as a key priority. We want to use this opportunity to further explore ways that we can further enhance our advocacy efforts on your behalf in advancing the key policy issues on behalf of those who live with mood disorders. This confidential survey is the beginning of that process. Your input is essential to ensure we provide relevant tools in the months ahead. Please take the survey here.
To maintain anonymity, once you complete the survey, please click this link where you may enter your email address for a chance to win one of five $25 Amazon Gift Cards. The survey is estimated to take 10 minutes to complete.
DBSA is proud to partner with the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and more than 20 leading advocacy organizations for Hill Day at Home, the biggest virtual advocacy event of the year.
Held on October 19, Hill Day at Home is our chance to raise the volume on critical mental health care issues. Last year, more than 2,000 people from all 50 states attended Hill Day at Home, resulting in 416 members of Congress reached.
Don’t miss your chance to make a mark on a national scale! Register today to learn from policy leaders, connect with peers, raise your voice and catch up on Capitol Hill news. We will:
- Address the most pressing questions facing our field in the wake of COVID-19.
- Host advocacy experts to discuss the latest legislation developments and trends.
- Offer a sneak peek inside the Biden-Harris Administration and their mental health agenda.
- Explore strategies for bolstering our workforce, increasing access to treatment and more!
join DBSA, the National Council, and our partners for this can’t-miss learning experience. Register today to stay informed, be inspired and elevate your advocacy – all from the comfort of your desk!
Your Voice Can Make a Difference
Please support this work by forwarding this message to colleagues, family, and friends who are passionate about this cause to assist us in this grassroots effort to make our voice heard.
To continue to receive communications about issues that support access to quality mental health care,