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OMH expands telepsychiatry regulations to increase access

By Journal Staff


New guidelines allow more mental-health providers to utilize telehealth technology

The New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) on July 9 announced the adoption of new, expanded telepsychiatry regulations to offer increased access to a range of mental-health services using electronic communication.

The new regulations allow more mental-health practitioners to use virtual technology to provide or support clinical psychiatric care at a distance. Prior regulations permitted only psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners to utilize the technology.

“Telemedicine is an exciting avenue for the Office of Mental Health to explore, as we work diligently to expand access to mental health services and psychiatric consultations,” Dr. Ann Sullivan, OMH commissioner, said in a news release. But as we adopt and use telepsychiatry and telemental health, it’s important to remember that this technology is to be used in combination with, but not as a replacement for a broader treatment plan and support services. With that in mind, the possibilities these expanded regulations provide are very promising.” 

In 2014, 65 percent of New York counties were designated as “mental health professional shortage areas” under either state or federal designations. Over the last five years, the OMH has been working to combat the state’s psychiatric and mental health professional shortage by exploring telehealth technologies to serve people who are unable to access care.

Utilizing telehealth technology can provide access to services when on-site treatment options are unavailable because of distance, location, time of day, or availability of resources, the OMH said. Participating providers are required to give prospective clients information about the use of telemental health as they consider treatment options.

The updated regulations build upon the 2016 regulations to now allow psychologists, licensed social workers, and mental-health counselors, marriage and family therapists, creative-arts therapists, and psychoanalysts (licensed under Article 163 of the New York State Education Law) to utilize virtual-therapy appointments. As a result of this expansion, the New York State service has changed names from “telepsychiatry” to “telemental health.”

Telemental health will now be permitted at more hub locations, including a practitioner’s home office and private practice settings. Prescribers may be located anywhere within the U.S., while other practitioner types may be located anywhere within New York state, the OMH said.

The regulations also expand the originating site to be anywhere the client is located within the state. Temporary locations are also permitted within and outside of New York. Additionally, the regulations add assertive community treatment and personalized recovery-oriented service sites as eligible treatment settings.  

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