Sullivan Introduces Bill to Remove Obstacle to Mental Telehealth Services for Seniors

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) today introduced legislation to permanently waive a federal provision requiring seniors who are seeking mental health services to have an in-person visit before receiving services virtually. The Trump administration waived this requirement during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the declaration of a public health emergency (PHE). Without legislative action, these flexibilities will end when the federal PHE ends.

“Just like the ‘originating site’ requirement my FRONTIER Community Act eliminated in 2020, this one-size-fits-all federal rule does not work for Alaska seniors and has proven to be an obstacle to tackling our country’s worsening mental health crisis,” said Sen. Sullivan. “With lives on the line, our priority must be connecting patients with services, even if they live hundreds of miles from a provider. I urge my colleagues to recognize how unworkable this rule is for millions of rural Americans and help me get this legislation to the President’s desk.”

Sen. Sullivan has been a champion of improving mental health services and expanding access through telehealth delivery. Sullivan’s FRONTIER Community Act, signed into law in December 2020, removed the federal rule requiring patients to travel to a pre-approved “originating site”—which can be hundreds of miles from a patient’s home—in order to receive mental telehealth services. Sullivan has also cosponsored the CONNECT for Health Act and the Telehealth Modernization Act to make telehealth flexibilities permanent.

Congressmen Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), John Curtis (R-Utah) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives, which passed the body in July. 

# # #