New York

NY lawmakers proposing increased access to mental health services

 There is a new effort in Albany targeting the need for resources for mental health treatment.
Three legislative packages are being proposed – one of which would expand who can diagnose patients and connect them to further treatment.
If the Assembly bill is passed, those permissions would expand to include licensed mental health counselors.
“If only psychiatrists and psychologists can do the diagnosis, we have to wait for an individual to get to them first. There’s not enough for them to cover that need. Beyond that, there’s not enough of them to cover that need for treatment,” said Assemblyman Harry Bronson, who is sponsoring the package.
“It would allow for more efficient and successful treatment, which is what everyone wants to see,” said Kara Juszczak, owner of Tree of Hope Counseling in Rochester.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, there are growing waitlists for referrals for inpatient and outpatient care.
Bronson says the pandemic has made the problem worse.
“It has contributed to higher costs to non-profit agencies and has impeded access to care. The legislature must act quickly to address the shortage and address this crisis,” said Bronson.
Two other bills are included as part of the legislative package. One would allow practitioners to bill Medicaid directly for services.
The other would allow insurers to cover counseling outside a clinical setting, such as a school.
“Especially in a pandemic when people are needing more, they’re needing more support. It provides a larger population of mental health providers that can serve and support them and be readily available for them,” said Juszczak.
New York State Senator Samra Brouk is sponsoring the Senate version of this bill.
Lawmakers are working to include the package as part of the state budget, which could pass April 1.

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