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James Plastiras Director of Public Information New York State Office of Mental Health 518-474-6540 james.plastiras@omh.ny.gov

July 09, 2019

OFFICE OF MENTAL HEALTH EXPANDS TELEPSYCHIATRY REGULATIONS TO INCREASE ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

New Guidelines Allow More Providers to Utilize Telehealth Technology; Will Decrease Wait Time, Improve Access in Underserved Areas

The New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) today announced the adoption of new, expanded telepsychiatry regulations to give New Yorkers greater access to a range of mental health services using electronic communication.

The new regulations allow more mental health practitioners to utilize virtual technology to provide or support clinical psychiatric care at a distance. Previous regulations only permitted psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners to utilize the technology.

“Telemedicine is an exciting avenue for the Office of Mental Health to explore, as we work diligently to expand access to mental health services and psychiatric consultations,” said OMH Commissioner, Dr. Ann Sullivan. “But as we adopt and use telepsychiatry and telemental health, it’s important to remember that this technology is to be used in combination with, but not as a replacement for a broader treatment plan and support services. With that in mind, the possibilities these expanded regulations provide are very promising.“ 

In 2014, 65 percent of New York counties were designated as “mental health professional shortage areas” under either State or federal designations. Over the last five years, the Office of Mental Health has been working to combat the state’s psychiatric and mental health professional shortage by exploring avenues in telehealth to best serve individuals who are unable to access care.

Utilizing telehealth technology can provide access to services when on-site treatment options are unavailable-- due to distance, location, time of day, or availability of resources. Participating providers are required to give prospective clients information about the use of telemental health to ensure they can make an informed decision about the treatment delivery method.

The updated regulations build upon the 2016 regulations to now allow psychologists, licensed social workers, and mental health counselors, marriage & family therapists, creative arts therapists, and psychoanalysts (licensed under Article 163 of the State Education Law) to utilize virtual therapy appointments. Because of this expansion, the New York State service has changed names from “telepsychiatry” to “telemental health.”

Telemental health will now be permitted at more hub locations, including a practitioner’s home office and private practice settings. Prescribers may be located anywhere within the US, while other practitioner types may be located anywhere within NYS.

The regulations also expand the originating site to be anywhere the client is located within the state. Temporary locations are also permitted within and outside of the state. Additionally, the regulations add Assertive Community Treatment and Personalized Recovery-Oriented Service sites as eligible treatment settings.
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