The Role of Telehealth in Behavioral Health


Telehealth presents an opportunity to expand access to behavioral health services, particularly for individuals in rural areas. For example, as the opioid epidemic has swept the Nation, rural communities have been witnessing significant increases in opioid overdose death rates. A blog by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, New Leaders Use Telehealth—and Teamwork—To Tackle Opioid Use, explains how programs can leverage telehealth technologies to increase access to treatment for patients with opioid use disorders who live in rural areas.

Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is an innovative model that aims to expand access to specialty care in underserved areas. It creates a virtual learning community that connects community-based providers with a team of specialists at an academic hub. As use of this model is expanding, the Project ECHO Medicaid Learning Collaborative has been developing tools to help State Medicaid agencies replicate the model. These include a technical assistance tool, a brief on financing options, and strategies to engage State Medicaid officials.

Also, as these services become more common, States are enacting legislation related to telehealth. A report from the Center for Connected Health Policy of the Milbank Memorial Fund explores the impact of these laws on commercial payers and their effect on service utilization. Learn more in the report Telehealth Private Payer Laws: Impact and Issues.