Hurdles to Tele-Mental Health Medicine expansion in Wyoming

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 7:05 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Telemedicine has surged during the pandemic, but it faces many obstacles as it attempts to expand into Tele-Mental Health.

Telemedicine and Tele-Mental Health Medicine are big upcoming fields, and thanks to COVID, mental health issues have become a crisis in Wyoming.

" We use Telemedicine particularly during COVID, we still use it both for direct-to-consumer visits as well as for visits with patients who cant leave their home,” said Carol Solie, MD AND Chief Medical Officer for Banner Wyoming Medical Center

In Wyoming, Medic-Aid is covering mental health visits by telemetry. Medi-care has covered telemedicine and recently expanded to mental health telemedicine.

But this field still needs more tele-mental health providers. Physicians, social workers, counselors, and psychologists can provide these services, and they must be willing to risk starting a tele-practice with no guarantees.

“Since it couldn’t be re-imburse through tele-medicine link, a person could not necessarily have tele-medicine business in a small town To make it logistically possible if this service wasnt covered by insurance. It’s possible we may be able to attract more providers with the state offering coverage and with Medicare offering coverage.”

To add to the issue, there’s a lack of physical capacity and funds at the state hospital where patients with severe mental health issues are hospitalized. The limitation in recruiting staff means their facility are chronically full.

They can’t get patients out of the local in-patient health institution that needs to go to the state. They then cant get patients out of their emergency room to get in-patient psychiatric care, and COVID has added to the mental health strain.

“Cutting metal health services at the same time when more patients need mental health services, because of the strains that resulted from the pandemic both with employment and with substance use .”

According to Solie, lost jobs, lack of socialization, and substance abuse increased overdoses by 29.9% in 2020 from the year before.

Yet government cuts mean necessary services still get cut, people to go without and hospitals make do.

But with telemedicine and tele-mental health medicine taking on a new role, with additional funding, hope may be on the horizon.

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