HCN News & Notes

MassHealth Expands Access to Behavioral Healthcare Through Telehealth

BOSTON — MassHealth is offering a new benefit for its 1.86 million members to receive behavioral-health treatment. Utilizing teletherapy and telepsychiatry, members will be able to remotely access the expertise of providers across the state in real time using secure and interactive audio and video technology. The new benefit is one piece of the Baker-Polito administration’s broader, ongoing efforts to improve access to behavioral health in the Commonwealth.

“We continue to make changes in the MassHealth program — in both funding and policy — to improve access to behavioral-health treatment for members,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “By introducing telehealth, we are increasing access to treatment for mental illness, addictions, and co-occurring illness for members across the state.”

Telehealth services improve access to timely, appropriate treatment by providing an additional avenue for individuals to seek behavioral-health treatment outside of traditional face-to-face appointments; linking members with substance-use disorders to outpatient counseling and providers who can prescribe medication-assisted treatment; connecting members whose native language is not English with multi-lingual providers, including American Sign Language; and engaging members who live in rural areas where there may be a dearth of providers.

“Tele-behavioral health can help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our provider workforce and remove unnecessary obstacles to provide treatment for MassHealth members who have difficulty leaving their home environment, who live in rural areas, and or have other unique needs,” said Dan Tsai, assistant secretary for MassHealth. “In addition, behavioral-health providers are also incentivized to promote and utilize telehealth services and are reimbursed at the same rates as in-person visits.”

Behavioral health services delivered via telehealth may be provided by any qualified MassHealth provider, including psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, clinical social workers, behavioral-health nurses, nurse practitioners, and professional counselors.

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