Testimony on SB 1176: An Act Concerning Telehealth

Human Services Committee

March 7, 2023

Submitted by: Stephen Wanczyk-Karp, LMSW

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter, the largest social work organization in Connecticut, we support SB 1176.

AAC Telehealth will continue the use of audio only when a video option is not available, or internet connections are lost. This particularly benefits older adults and disabled persons residing in long-term care facilities where video is not feasible. It also has greatly aided those without video capable equipment, which is most prevalent among persons living in poverty. Additionally, audio only allows for added privacy for those who so choose this option. It is crucially important to continue the audio only option in Medicaid.

This bill will also 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. 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, SB 1176 opens access to out of state providers that will enhance the pool of providers.

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 expects to introduce its compact language in 2024. 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. SB 1176 will make telehealth access to out of state clinicians a permanent reality without unnecessary delay.

Medicaid recipients and providers will benefit from a stable health delivery system that does not create uncertainty as to whether audio only telehealth services will continue. Our chapter staff has heard from numerous members who report client concerns about telehealth’s current provisions not being extended. We also hear from clinical social workers who fear not being able to continue to safely treat their clients or question if they can take on new clients in this time of looming concerns to whether current audio telehealth rules will continue.

NASW/CT urges the  Human Services Committee vote in support S.B. 1176.

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