APA Praises Passage of Emergency COVID-19 Funding; Authority to Government to Lift Restrictions on Telehealth Services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Psychiatric Association (APA) applauds Congress for passing an $8 billion emergency funding package to address the spread of COVID-19. Among other provisions, the bill allows for the secretary of Health and Human Services to temporarily lift restrictions on Medicare access to telehealth services, such as live videoconference consultations with doctors. This will potentially allow patients with mental health and substance use disorders who may be worried about contracting the virus to continue to receive treatment during this public health emergency.

“Telehealth and telepsychiatry in ordinary times can help more people access services that are critical to their well-being,” said APA President Bruce Schwartz, M.D. “But it is especially important now, given the nature of COVID-19. Particularly for some groups, like senior citizens and other vulnerable populations access to telepsychiatry and telehealth could be vital. We thank Congress for including this important provision in the funding package.” The House passed the measure on Wednesday, and the Senate approved the bill today. President Trump is expected to sign the bill.

“Epidemics can cause people to experience stress and anxiety,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “Having tools and access to solutions like telepsychiatry, as well as clear communications from the media and government, will go a long way toward mitigating that stress.”

APA had sent a letter to Congress on March 2 requesting inclusion of the measure.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,500 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit www.psychiatry.org.

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