Reps. Emmer, Tonko urge extension of mental telehealth during pandemic

Reps. Emmer, Tonko urge extension of mental telehealth during pandemic

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, members of Congress asked leaders to extend mental telehealth services during the pandemic.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) joined Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and 30 other Congresspersons in requesting that the next COVID-19 stimulus package include extending telehealth for behavioral services for a reasonable amount of time following the COVID-19 public health emergency and assessing which of the services 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,” said Emmer. “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.”

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, expanded behavioral telehealth services have increased access to behavioral health services and been extremely successful in ensuring patients continue to receive mental health and addiction care during the pandemic.

“Without regular access to behavioral health services, we are concerned that thousands of individuals will be seeking emergency care, with many turning to substance misuse or suicide risks,” the letter said. “Telehealth is proving to be a successful means in bridging this gap of care, and it is critical that once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, access to behavioral health services does not.”

The effort is supported by Mental Health America, the National Association for Behavioral Health, the National Council for Behavioral Health, the American Psychological Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.