The focus on mental health has never been more pronounced than it is today. There are mental health issues in our schools, workplaces, and homes.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about 45 million adults experienced mental illness in the US, in 2016. Treatment is patchy with 37% of adults not receiving treatment for a major depressive episode, this is starkly higher amongst adolescents

Not seeking or receiving treatment is a complex problem to understand, major contributing variables include stigma related to mental health, access to providers and affordability.

Th shortage of mental health professionals in the US is a particularly difficult challenge to address. According to the US Health Resources and Services Administration in November 2016, there is a need to add 10,000 mental health providers by 2025 to meet the growing demand. And cited in a 2016 study in the Telemedicine Journal and E-Health, the country is at the ‘threshold of a severe shortage of psychiatrists”.

Parallel to the greater focus and prevalence of mental health issues is the boom of telehealth. Tele-psychiatry and related mental health telemedicine application are leading the medical field in taking advantage of what tele-technology has to offer.  

Telehealth aims to augment the access to provider gap, by allowing providers to see a higher volume and diverse subset of patients for remote consultations, in addition, it provides access to self-help tools and various applications that can form part of the patient’s treatment.

Hiring psychiatrists, psychologists, and other behavioral health professionals is a tough job. The aforementioned scarcity and resultant competitiveness being major issues.  

However, there are some great new developments/ trends to be aware of that will give mental health a much-needed boost:

  1. Continuous grants and funds for the use of telehealth in mental health care.

Funding for the use of telehealth in mental health care among public or state institutions and hospitals, particularly for rural health care, have been given priority in recent months. Just last January, the latest round of Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants focused on mental health counseling and tackling opioid abuse epidemic. The DLT Grant Program, with funding from the US Department of Agriculture, will issue 72 grants worth almost 24 million usd among different states. The following states among the 28 who have been given grants, will have programs focusing on mental health and related disciplines: Alaska; Colorado; Kentucky; Oklahoma; New York; and Louisiana.

  1. Move to ease licensing issues.

Licensing issues still hound psychology boards and psychiatrists even mental health counselors. The state-based rulings and practices have stifled collaboration, access, and availability of telehealth services on mental and behavioral health care according to the American Telehealth Association. Currently, among the various psychologist’s boards, the states of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah have enacted Psypact and more are expected to join this year. The compact needs to reach seven member states to be activated. Psychiatrists are covered by the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. Even mental health counselors boards and associations have proposed last April 2017 the National Counselor Licensure Endorsement Process.

Licensing issues are still a primary factor against maximizing of telehealth in this field and so keeping abreast of news in the proposed licensure compacts would provide you a step ahead in targeting possible candidate for a talent pool of mental health care providers. The compacts are still in their first stages and much lobbying still needs to be done.

  1. Creating holistic mental and behavioral health care models.

The increasing move towards a combination of clinical and behavioral healthcare models. The needs of the field of mental health care and the emergence of telehealth have incorporated to create ‘packages of mental health care’. Telehealth has indeed enabled the shifting of business model to consumer-based care where specialists can launch their own platforms to offer their services. This is a viable option for psychiatry and psychology. Likewise, a blended model of care throughout the community would allow consumers to access the same provider in various settings and access.

A psychiatrists tasks of providing diagnostic care, medication management, and supportive therapy can be bundled up with preventive and health and wellness apps to promote holistic mental and behavioral health care. According to the Top of Mind 2018 study among the biggest health systems in the country, 100% of respondents are planning to promote ‘health and wellness apps’ to consumers starting this year.

The specific areas related to mental health counseling are being given much attention. Including those related to opioid addiction and substance abuse treatments. Mental health counselors are part of the ‘community and social service occupations’. They serve as the bulk of the healthcare providers for mental and behavioral health with an additional set of people on support roles. Information relevant to their license, skills, and what they can offer for a holistic mental and behavioral health care model is essential to maximize leads.

Likewise, the move towards holistic packages of mental and behavioral health care would require a collective set of providers to answer to the various levels of care needed – from preventive apps to counseling to a psychologist’s treatment of mental disorders up to medication treatment from a psychiatrist. Having a network of specialists and supporting health care providers for would push your telehealth efforts forward.