Testimony on HB 6562: An Act Concerning Telehealth

Public Health Committee

February  22, 2023

Submitted by: Stephen Wanczyk-Karp, LMSW

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter we support HB  6562: AAC Telehealth. This bill will allow out of state licensed providers to permanently treat persons in Connecticut using telehealth.

The experience with telehealth has proven to be an effective treatment method for behavioral health care. Under current statute clinical social workers licensed in another jurisdiction are able to continue to treat existing clients who are in Connecticut on a temporary basis. This has meant the client is able to maintain uninterrupted treatment with a provider of their choice. This allowance of provider status that sunsets on June 30, 2024 has proven a success and deserves to be made permanent. HB 6562 not only will extend the provider status to out of state clinical social workers, it allows all licensed behavioral health providers to treat persons in Connecticut, a logical extension of current law.

Accessibility to care has undeniably been increased through the expansion of telehealth services. At a time when there is a shortage of mental health providers within our state, HB 6562 opens access to out of state providers that will enhance the pool of providers.

We recommend that audio only telehealth be available to all consumers, not just to in-network or those enrolled under Medicaid. Being out of network does not seem to justify denial of audio only as it is the same treatment mode that an in-network consumer has the right too under this bill.

There is a clear movement toward portability  of providers and development of professional compacts. CT has adopted the psychologist compact, the professional counselors have a compact before the Legislature this year and social work is finalizing its compact language. These are all positive steps to opening state borders but compacts take years to fully implement, while the need for access to providers is now. HB 6562 will make telehealth access to out of state clinicians a permanent reality without unnecessary delay and will eliminate the concerns of consumers and providers that treatment allowed now will be terminated later.

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