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HomeBreaking NewsWisconsin Lawmakers Coming Together on Telehealth Changes for Mental Health Treatment

Wisconsin Lawmakers Coming Together on Telehealth Changes for Mental Health Treatment

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The plan would essentially make Wisconsin’s COVID-era telehealth program permanent.

The plan to change Wisconsin’s telehealth rules for mental health treatment is coming together at the State Capitol.

The Senate Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse Prevention, Children and Families held a hearing Tuesday on Senate Bill 515 which would allow out-of-state mental health providers to take patients in Wisconsin without having to get a license to practice in Wisconsin.

“Overall, this breaks down barriers. It allows other providers to provide other services. And it allows people to get the help that they need,” Sen. Rachel Cabral-Guevara, R-Appleton, said.

The plan would essentially make Wisconsin’s COVID-era telehealth program permanent.

Supporters say it will also help battle Wisconsin’s “crisis level” shortage of mental health providers.

In a press release, IRG Action Fund CEO, CJ Szafir said, “It’s no secret that Wisconsin is facing a mental health crisis which has been exacerbated by the mental health provider shortage. If passed, Senate Bill 515 would immediately increase access to mental health providers for Wisconsinites in rural and underserved areas of the state. This bill will also help college students from other states keep their providers via telehealth and allow Wisconsinites to have options to receive the care that they need.”

“The shortage is all the more stark when you look at rural areas of the state,” Institute for Reforming Government’s Alex Ignatowski told lawmakers. “The average throughout the state is one mental health provider for every 470 residents. But if you go to Buffalo County that jumps to 13,030 residents per one mental health provider.”

The proposal already cleared the Wisconsin Assembly, where Cabral-Guevara said there were some changes to get Wisconsin’s Medical Society to drop its opposition.

“There were two amendments that were added. One limits the scope to just mental health providers. So, it takes out physicians, PAs, and nurses, and it puts in therapists, counselors, social workers, and psychologists to provide a little bit narrower scope,” Cabral-Guevara said. “The other one provides that an out-of-state provider needs to register with DSPS so that we know these folks are registered within their state, and we have accountability here in our state.”

Ignatowski said the move to break down barriers and eliminate burdensome regulations is a good thing.

“Currently 26 states have some sort of exception for out-of-state telehealth providers. These exceptions cover a number of medical and mental health provider groups, but often have a complex set of requirements. Wisconsin can do better,” Ignatowski said. “We know that providers from other states are not drastically different to the point that we need to impose duplicative licensure requirements or put up new bureaucratic barriers between providers and the Wisconsinites who need help now. There is no silver bullet for solving mental health the mental health crisis in Wisconsin, but SB515 will increase access to mental health services in Wisconsin and warrants your support.”

Ben Yount - The Center Square
The Center Square contributor
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