House Bill 166, sponsored by Representative Stephanie Gricius, will start to topple poorly constructed telehealth regulations and expand the number of mental health professionals available to Utahns.
Specifically, this bill, passed during Utah’s 2023 Legislative Session, allows providers licensed outside of Utah to provide mental health therapy remotely or substance use disorder counseling remotely to one Utahn patient for a period of nine months without needing to be licensed in Utah. After this nine-month period expires, these professionals shall obtain a license by endorsement.
This will allow individuals in the midst of a mental health crisis or who need immediate care to receive that treatment from outside providers, who have the ability to take on an additional client, for a period long enough for that patient to get off a waitlist and begin treatment with a Utah provider.
Additionally, this bill makes appropriate occupational licensing alterations to ensure that Utah can continue to attract professionals to these vital fields, get patients the timely care they need, and maintain patient health and safety.
In Utah, a quarter of the adult population is reporting experiencing a mental health condition, nearly 7 percentage points higher than the national average, and a shortage of mental health professionals in the state exacerbates this issue, with all twenty-nine counties experiencing a deficit according to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
This shortage has serious consequences for individuals and families in Utah. Many people face long waitlists for treatment; for some, care becomes completely inaccessible. As a result, 62 percent of adults with mild mental illness in Utah do not receive treatment, and nearly half of the state’s youth aged 12 to 17 with depression did not receive any care in the year 2020.
Fortunately, with the passage of HB 166, Utah’s telehealth laws will be safely deregulated and work to immediately solve the state’s shortage of these critical behavioral and mental health professionals.
Deregulating mental health laws in Utah is a policy position that just inherently makes sense. Professionals in the related fields undergo comparable training nationwide, and if they are licensed and in good standing in any state, having demonstrated their ability to deliver high-quality care, they should have the unrestricted ability to help individuals grappling with their mental health in any state throughout the country.
The real benefits of deregulation in telehealth include:
- Expanding access to mental health services in Utah, particularly for underserved populations and those in remote areas.
- Allowing therapy, counseling, and other services to patients to be provided in their own homes, reducing travel time and costs for both providers and patients.
- Increasing the flexibility for mental health professionals, allowing them to offer more convenient and accessible care.
We commend Representative Gricius for sponsoring this bill and helping establish policies that will lead to positive health outcomes.