NJAMHAA - 2021 Advocacy Piece

7 No Bridge Can Stand without a Strong Foundation: Support and Expand Critical Components of Infrastructure Telehealth Telehealth policy and practice, including for tele-behavioral health, leaped forward in 2020 as the pandemic raged and demanded an alternative to face-to-face service delivery. While forged by crisis, studies continue to show the many positive benefits and opportunities that are built into remote services. Providers saw no-show rates drop precipitously, often to zero. Individuals who were reluctant to engage with in-person groups found their voice behind a screen. They also saw transportation, childcare, physical and financial barriers to participation in treatment disappear. Perhaps the most important change that enabled recipients of services to stay connected to their program services was the waiver allowing the receiver of services to be at any location. It is imperative that allowing clients to receive services in their home or another place of their choosing be made permanent if the benefits of telehealth are to continue for those receiving behavioral health services. It is also critical to retain reimbursement parity with face-to-face services and provide fiscal support for individuals for whom equipment and/or Internet services are not affordable. While some facility costs might lessen over time with increased use of telehealth, most of those costs will remain fixed. Staffing and indirect costs will be comparable to in-person services, with additional costs for equipment and digital services. While telehealth services have been well-received by a majority of individuals, many continue to need face-to-face interaction, either due to acuity, personal preference, necessary medical services or just to better address the effects of social isolation. Telehealth is not the appropriate alternative for everyone, but must remain an option for all. New Jersey must offer permanent regulatory changes in order to continue the benefits of telehealth, as well as fiscal support for both providers and service recipients to secure appropriate equipment, as well as adequate Internet and phone services. These changes begin with passage of S2559/A4179, which must first be amended to permit clients to receive services in a location of their choosing. LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY Pass S2559/A4179 (with an amendment permitting clients to receive services in a location of their choosing) to sustain accessible tele-behavioral health services.