The Impact of COVID-19 on Telemental Health Across State Lines
We will always remember 2019 as the year that permanently changed our lives. Years from now the term “social distancing” may drift away, but human contact may never be the same. Maybe not in our lifetime.
2019 is the the year of the 2019 novel coronavirus or simply, COVID-19. Below is a picture of my old can of Lysol indicating it kills human coronavirus, but coronaviruses have existed for centuries–or more–COVID-19 is a highly transmissible and deadly strain of that virus.
Telemental Health Law and Out of State Mental Health Practice
First, many states have implemented policies allowing for out of state telemental health practitioners, but these policies can changes without notice. If these policies change, you can’t defend unlicensed practice because you didn’t get the memo.
Not all states have implemented COVID-19 policies for out of state licensed health practitioners. Many have not. Most of the state policy changes effect physicians and nurses, but some have implemented policy allowing clinical social workers, professional counselors, marriage and family therapist and psychologists to practice within their state. The policy changes have been executed mainly via:
1) Governor Executive Order
2) Boards of Health or Divisions of Professions and Businesses
3) Individual Licensing Boards
Changing law and passing legislation takes time. Therefore most states’ laws are permitted under law to implement licensing policy and rules exceptions during a state of emergency. So no law changes–out of state practice has been addressed through executive order or board emergency rule and policy changes.
Out Of State Licensees and Practice Within State Boundaries Prohibited
It is important to note that the emergency policies allow only telehealth. Licensees can only deliver telehealth services to individuals from within their home state. They cannot practice geographically within that state. There is one exception however. Through a Governor Cuomo executive order, New York State has implemented an emergency policy that allows health care professionals to come to New York to practice within the state provided they have an active unencumbered practice license in their home state. It is essentially, ‘if you’re licensed, come to New York because we have a severe shortage of healthcare providers. This policy could change without notice.