Earlier this year, experts in children’s mental health gathered in Columbus, Ohio to talk about a pediatric crisis. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death in young people 10-19 years old. Half of the mental illnesses start by the age of 14. One in five children is living with a significantly impairing mental illness.
The 2020 Behavioral Health Summit, hosted by Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Association, focused on building regionally coordinated ways of helping children who need it. Over and over again, these mental health leaders talked about the potential of telehealth.
Approximately 70 percent of American counties don’t have a single child psychiatrist, and telehealth could be a crucial tool for reaching families — if only state governments and private insurers would relax certain regulations and reimburse for services at rates that would make telehealth sustainable.
For a reason that no one would have predicted or wished for, this is exactly what is happening all over the United States. Where I live and work, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Director of Health Dr. Amy Acton and Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran have rightly earned praise for their early, decisive action to respond to COVID-19. That includes emergency rules allowing for greater access to telehealth for people covered by Medicaid.
At this moment, telehealth lets people receive necessary care without increasing their risk of infection by leaving their homes. What happens when this moment is over, though? Should we advocate for the emergency rules in Ohio and other states to become the new normal?