Legislation would expand mental health services for telemedicine

Legislation would expand mental health services for telemedicine

A bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate would permanently expand access to mental health services through telemedicine in frontier states.

In those states, at least 50 percent of counties have an average population density of six individuals per square mile or fewer. There are six frontier states: Alaska, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Americans seeking mental telehealth services are required under current law to call mental health providers in urban areas and to travel to an approved “originating site.” The FRONTIER Community Act removes this requirement.

The bill also would direct the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration, to provide additional telehealth flexibility for IHS facilities. The agencies also would award grants for broadband infrastructure.

The bill was introduced by U.S. Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).

“The economic crisis and social isolation caused by COVID-19 is exacerbating our existing mental health crisis,” Rosen said. “I’m proud to introduce this important piece of bipartisan legislation to address the need for increased access to mental telehealth services in states like Nevada that have a significant number of frontier counties.”

Numerous organizations have endorsed the bill.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House.