As residents took care to avoid COVID-19 infection in 2020 and 2021, a lot of daily life routines had to be changed. One of those changes was the state loosening regulations to allow patients more flexibility in receiving care via telehealth.
This change was seen as a positive development among many in the mental health space particularly, and advocates hoped for the change to remain permanent. Pennsylvania State Representative Tina Pickett (R-110) took up the charge to get the loosened regulations set permanently. Her proposed legislation, formerly House Bill 2419, proposed eliminating the statutory requirement of 50 percent of onsite psychiatric time, giving the Department of Human Services more flexibility in issuing waivers to accommodate clinics that offered mental health services virtually.
Paul Denault, MS, CADC, LPC, and President of Northern Tier Counseling, which among other things provides psychiatric care to residents in Bradford and Tioga Counties, praised the Pickett for her efforts in passing the legislation.
“This law is a huge relief for many providers across the Commonwealth that have been dealing with shortages of psychiatric supports. This Bill will now allow providers to better meet the demands that are ever growing, especially pre and post COVID,” Denault said in a statement.
“Act 76 will help meet the demand by allowing other licensed prescribing professionals to practice in psychiatric clinics within their scope of practice. The psychiatric clinics will also be able to utilize telehealth for supervisions, consultations, staff meetings, and real time psychiatric services. The providers are also grateful to its trade association RCPA “Rehabilitation Community Providers Association” for collaborating and educating the legislators on the importance of this legislation.”
Denault had estimated that of the 2200 individuals serviced at NTC as many as 900 would be affected by the passing of Act 76.
“There’s just so many barriers to people getting the help and medication they need. This change during covid helped us provide care and we’re glad we don’t have to go back to the old ways,” Denault said.
Pickett’s legislation coasted through both Pennsylvania legislative houses with unanimous support and was signed into law as Act 76 by Governor Tom Wolf on July 15.
Denault expressed his gratitude to Pickett by presenting her with a plaque declaring his organization’s appreciation on July 25.