Telehealth and Mental Health: Two Bills Move Forward

Jan 27, 2020

Credit SDPB

Two bills related to use of telemedicine in mental health crisis situations are moving forward in the state legislature.

Senate Bill 1 allows for real-time video conferencing with a qualified mental health professional to assess a person’s status in the event of an emergency. House Bill 1005 removes the need for the healthcare professional to have a prior relationship with the patient, thereby allowing emergency assessments.

Both bills stemmed from a legislative task force that investigated how telehealth could impact access to mental health services in the state. Senator Deb Soholt chaired the task force and explained the need to the Senate Health and Human Services committee.

“It’s a virtual ambulance coming in for mental health conditions," she says. "It’s a way to provide the most qualified person in every corner of our state. This legislation will allow the business models to emerge that can happen—so we don’t have to put a person in a sheriff’s car and drive them 200 miles to another facility where they can access a QMHP.”

Other proponents include the South Dakota Sheriff’s Association, the South Dakota Association of Health Care Organizations, and the mental health division of the state Department of Social Services. There was no opposing testimony.

Senator Soholt says Governor Noem’s push to expand rural broadband will bring telehealth access to the majority of South Dakota’s residents within three years.

Both bills passed through the Senate Health and Human Services committee unanimously.