N.H. Mental Healthcare Providers Urge Passage Of Bill To Expand Telemedicine Beyond COVID-19 | New Hampshire Public Radio

N.H. Mental Healthcare Providers Urge Passage Of Bill To Expand Telemedicine Beyond COVID-19

Jun 15, 2020

An example of a virtual mental healthcare waiting room.
Credit Annie Ropeik screenshot / NHPR

The state Senate votes Tuesday on a bill that would make permanent much of the telehealth system that has emerged in New Hampshire during the pandemic.

Mental health providers are urging passage of the plan, which has already cleared the House. It would lower the bar for when patients are allowed to access remote care and require equal telehealth coverage under Medicaid and private insurance.

On a press call Monday, doctors and a patient said these are all features of the expanded telehealth system that's emerged in the state in recent months. Cynthia Whitaker, the chief of services at Greater Nashua Mental Health, says these changes need to be enshrined in state law.

“Why wouldn’t we embrace this solution – this three-month experiment – that has been working and has provided access to people regardless of their ability to leave their home?” she says.

Ashley Mills of Lebanon, who has been accessing therapy remotely, says it was huge for her to be able to continue treatment during the stay-at-home order.

"With anything with mental health, it's OK to fall down, it's OK to need help,” she says. “This is just another way of getting that easy access and entering the system and continuing progress."

Supporters say the pressures of the pandemic have increased the need for access to mental health care and substance use treatment.