Keep audio-only telehealth services
We made a great decision. Now we need to adopt it. On March 10, 2020, in a response to the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 outbreak, Governor Baker used his executive order to expand TeleHealth services to include audio only-telephonic treatment. As allowed in other states, I put forward to preserve the audio-only as a permanent viable billable telemedicine service option for behavioral healthcare here in Massachusetts.
The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health recorded 57.8 million Americans in the United States have a mental health and/or substance misuse disorder, and over 68,683 calls per month came into the National Help Line. Access to priority preventative, behavioral health, and substance treatment is critical for both individuals and their families.
Despite traditional Telehealth (audio with video) being available, it is ultimately, our most vulnerable populations who don’t have access to modernized resources and go untreated. Lack of treatment inevitably leads to a larger use of crisis, urgent care, and emergency services. The National Health Interview Survey of 2013 & 2014 listed “seriousness of the medical problem, doctor’s office or clinic was not open, and lack of access to other providers” as predominant reasons for patients accessing emergency room services.
COVID-19 has brought an opportunity to Massachusetts. Under the executive order, we are reaching more people and giving healthcare workers more options. This is our chance to fill a gap in care, serve all members of the Commonwealth, and decrease emergency service costs. We can’t go backwards.
I urge everyone to reach out to your representatives to support preserving the audio only Telehealth option here in Massachusetts. Together, we can all make an impact.
Christyn Guillotte, Fairhaven
The writer is pursuing a master’s in social work at Boston University.
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