projectsA Texas Solution to a National Challenge: How Telehealth Can Bolster Youth Mental Health in the Near-Term

A Texas Solution to a National Challenge: How Telehealth Can Bolster Youth Mental Health in the Near-Term

SUMMARY – The nation’s young people are facing a growing mental health challenge, one that has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and mental health workforce shortages. This extends to Texas children and youth who face serious mental health issues despite the Texas Legislature’s unprecedented investments in behavioral health over the last decade. Ninety-nine percent of Texas counties still have partial mental health shortage designations, and rural areas face particular challenges to providing youth access to high-quality mental health care given the insufficient workforce. While a multi-pronged approach is needed to meet the mental health needs of Texas’ young people, one important near-term strategy centers on expanding access to and use of telehealth services. Importantly, there are opportunities for both the public and private sectors to act today to advance solutions for increasing access to quality mental health services for youth.

Project Details

This policy brief highlights that Texas government and health plan leaders have near-term opportunities to bolster the state’s mental health workforce by better positioning telehealth companies to help address child and youth mental health needs. If exercised, these actions have the power to bolster the state’s existing mental health workforce while helping meet the mental health needs of Texas youth. Note that this policy brief defines “youth” broadly to include children through age 26.

Key Findings and Opportunities

  • As in other states, becoming established in Texas requires significant investments of time and money, particularly for companies serving Medicaid enrollees.
  • Professional licensure compacts offer one avenue to bolster the mental health workforce while expediting telehealth company entry and expansion in Texas.
  • The state has the opportunity to better incentivize commercial and Medicaid health plans to contract with private sector telehealth companies.
  • State and commercial health plan leaders can help telehealth companies make the financial case for serving Texas through improved reimbursement rates and expanding the range of providers eligible for compensation.

Near-Term Recommendations

  • Texas Legislature

    • Join the Counseling Compact and Social Work Licensure Compact.
    • Increase the Medicaid reimbursement rate for behavioral health services.
    • Expand the range of mental health service providers eligible for Medicaid reimbursement.
    • Ensure telehealth payment parity among commercial health plans.
    • Amend the Texas Insurance Code so that quality telehealth services count toward network adequacy standards.
  • Texas Department of Insurance

    • Enforce network adequacy standards to the fullest extent possible.
  • Texas Health and Human Services Commission

    • Develop and fully implement a plan to redefine Medicaid managed care organization (MCO) network adequacy standards to include quality telehealth-only services.
  • Medicaid MCOs

    • Streamline contracting processes.
  • All Health Plans

    • Invest in the infrastructure needed to evaluate and explore potential partnerships with telehealth providers.
  • Commercial Payers

    • Ensure telehealth payment parity – even absent a legislative directive to do so.

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