Utah expands access to online mental health treatment

Across the country, states are proposing more and more access to receiving mental health care via online tools. Why the push to move to online methods of care? Attending mental health care sessions online comes without the stigma associated with in-person treatments, and offers a more convenient and affordable way of receiving quality mental health care. In an age where 1 in 5 Americans have a diagnosable mental health illness, this new delivery of care promises to reach those stationed remotely or unsure because of perceived stigma. Online sessions have been well received too, a recent study by West Monroe found that 80% of clients who have communicated with a provider via digital tools prefer this methodology over in-person visits. With this in mind, Utah is the latest state to try and lift restrictions on providers offering a digital alternative, and has proposed new two bills to help amend the current stature on telehealth laws and regulations.

The New Legislation Explained

One of the new bills is Proposed Utah HB 154, a bill that hopes to fix the regulatory infrastructure for telemedicine, and a new redirected focus on telemental health. There are two key components of the new legislation. The first component hopes to provide a scope of telehealth practices within the Utah Health Code. Any provider using online methods to connect with their clients will be held to the same standard of care as that is applicable to in-person treatment. Additionally, a provider may not prescribe using telehealth unless the provider has received the patient’s relevant clinical file and documented relevant clinical history and current symptoms.

Another aspect of the legislation is aimed specifically at broadening the bandwidth of mental health services delivered online throughout Utah. For example, the DSM-V defines substance abuse disorders as mental health disorders, and the new provision will allow mental health providers to provide mental health services to those affected by a substance abuse disorder via online sessions, where treatment facilities may not otherwise be available. The new legislation’s Medical Assistance Act amendment “applies to any managed care organization that contracts with Medicaid, or any provider who is reimbursed under the Medicaid program, and requires insurers to disclose whether they provide coverage for telehealth services for mental health as a part of the price and value comparison requirement under Utah law.” The new legislation was passed by both the Utah House of Representatives and Senate, and now awaits Governor Gary Herbert’s signature.

If the new legislation is approved, the access to receiving mental health care in Utah will be greatly improved. Many providers will need a way of connecting with their clients online, conducting sessions via a secure, HIPAA compliant portal. WeCounsel was designed with the behavioral health specialist in mind, with reliable, HIPAA compliant video conferencing abilities, and even a billing integration.  Ready to see our award winning online engagement solution? Contact a WeCounsel success representative by calling 888-958-2885.