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Schatz Legislation Expanding Access To Mental Health Care Signed Into Law

Provision Removes Unnecessary Restrictions, Expands Access To Mental Health Services Through Telehealth

HONOLULU – Last night, legislation authored by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) that will expand access to mental health care was signed into law as part of the annual appropriations bill. The provision, which was originally part of Schatz’s CONNECT for Health Act, will allow Medicare beneficiaries across the country to permanently use telehealth to receive mental health services remotely, including in their homes.

“This will make it easier for more people in every part of Hawai‘i to see a mental health care provider by just using their smart phones or home computers,” said Senator Schatz. “Telehealth is about giving more people access to health care.”

Telehealth has seen a sharp rise in use since the start of pandemic as patients seek to avoid traveling to hospitals and other providers and instead receive care at home. New data shows that the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services increased by 11,718 percent in just a month and a half during the pandemic. In particular, the use of telehealth for mental health services with a psychiatrist or psychologist rose significantly, with almost half a million beneficiaries receiving mental health services through telehealth.