Behavioral Health Beyond State Borders

Behavioral Health Beyond State Borders: Kansas enacts PSYPACT telebehavioral health legislation, joins Missouri, Oklahoma and 22 other States

As far as health buzzwords go, telehealth has been top of mind for patients and providers since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is perhaps second only to another major buzzword that emerged in response to the pandemic—and one, that, as restrictions begin to ease and life begins to move toward a semblance of ‘normal, will only continue to grow in popularity. Mental health.

At the intersection of mental health and telehealth is telebehavioral health. That’s where the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT) comes into play. PSYPACT is an interstate compact that facilitates the practice of psychology using telecommunications technologies (telepsychology) or temporary in-person, face-to-face psychological practice. It exists to help reduce barriers and increase access to mental health care across state lines, including to rural and underserved populations, by streamlining licensure for telepsychologists.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed PSYPACT legislation into Kansas state law on May 17, 2021. This means, beginning in 2022, Kansas will join a growing body of 24 states where licensed psychologists can practice telepsychology without having to receive additional licensures in those states. For telepsychologists like Dr. Eve-Lynn Nelson, who practice near state lines, the legislation opens important cross-state opportunities.

“I practice in Kansas City at the corner of Stateline Road, separating Kansas and Missouri,” Nelson said. “After completing PSYPACT registration, the new legislation will help my colleagues and me better reach patients and families across Kansas, Missouri, and other participating states.”

Kansas joins Missouri and Oklahoma as PSYPACT states, spanning the three states Heartland Telehealth Resource Center serves. HTRC provides ongoing telebehavioral health education as well as technical assistance to support providers, clinic managers and others with the process.

“The Heartland region have been early adopters of evidence-based telepsychology to meet behavioral needs across the lifespan,” Nelson said. “PSYPACT has the potential to open doors to extend these best practices even further.”

The pandemic has fostered a greater sense of importance when it comes to addressing these needs. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, over 41% of U.S. adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder in January 2021, a significant increase from 11% in June 2019.

Telepsychology undoubtedly has a role to play in addressing increased mental health concerns. PSYPACT is designed to facilitate this role, creating more opportunities and access for patients to receive mental health care through telepsychology.

Plus, patients can rest easy knowing that they are in the care of qualified licensed psychologists in all of the participating states.

“PSYPACT is often compared to a ‘driver’s license’ for telehealth practice, with participating psychologists required to be licensed and in good standing within a participating state, as well as meet additional application requirements,” Nelson said.

It’s an apt comparison, and one that captures the essence of what PSYPACT legislation aims to do: provide the best telebehavioral health care that benefits both patients and licensed psychologists. This is the kind of care that drives telehealth and mental health services forward. With Kansas enacting PSYPACT legislation of their own, the Heartland region continues to pave the way for telepsychology practices that make a difference.