Strengthening IDENTITY | Preserving INTEGRITY | Advocating PARITY
Regardless of how we feel about providing psychotherapy through telemental health, LCSWs are currently in the position of having to continue to use telemental health or audio only mental health treatment for many months to come. Since mid-March, the vast majority of LCSWs who used to have an office where they met in person with patients, have been working from home. We have mostly made peace with the frustrations and, occasionally, surprising advantages, of working from home online or on the phone.
Returning to the Office – The conditions that would allow us to return to our offices without major changes to the air flow and air cleaning, use of masks, plastic shields, are not easy to create and there will be a high level of risk in some areas that is potentially harmful to many of us. That is why it is so important that Secretary Azar extended the public emergency declaration to October 23, 2020, this week to allow the use of telemental health to continue to be covered by Medicare. Be aware that this does not guarantee that private insurers will continue to cover telemental health.
Legislative Goals – Other immediate goals are to make telemental health a permanent option through Congressional laws; to make reimbursement for telemental health at the same level as for in office visits; and to compare the use of in office and telemental health treatment delivery methods. There are about 10 bills that would impact some or all of these issues. CSWA will keep you aware of the progress of these bills as they affect LCSWs.
Inter-state Telemental Health Practice – There continue to be variation in state rules that allow LCSWs in one state to see patients in another state through telemental health. This is especially difficult for ongoing patients who were seeing a patient in office from a state in which the LCSW was not licensed. I hope this chaos will resolve soon, but for now check on current laws and rules for practicing telemental health in states where you are not licensed with the state Board.
Self-Care – Please know that telemental health is more tiring for many LCSWs than office work and build in ways to give yourself more down time, whether it is through seeing fewer clients in a day; having longer breaks between clients; and having some time for relaxation, exercise, and other self-care.
Many of us have been paying for an office the past five months that we only use for billing or our own research. More and more requests to sublease offices are showing up. This painful decision is affecting all of us. The webinar given last month “To Be or Not To Be: LCSWs Returning to the Office” offers a template for helping make this decision and can be found at the CSWA website in the Members Only Section.
Be safe, stay well, and let CSWA know if there is any way we can help.
PO Box 10Garrisonville, Virginia 22463