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March 24, 2020

COVID-19: OMH Releases Additional Telemental Health Guidance

On March 12 and March 17, we wrote about the regulatory waiver for telemental health services issued by the NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH) in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The OMH has continued to release guidance documents further clarifying the use of telemental health services during the duration of the disaster emergency.

Supplemental Guidance on the Use of Telehealth in OMH-Funded Programs

On March 19, the OMH released supplemental guidance waiving the face-to-face requirements for state aid-funded programs for the duration of the disaster emergency and clarifying that both telephonic and video capabilities may be used to meet any client contact requirements. This supplemental guidance, however, only applies to the following OMH Employment/Vocational categories:

  • Advocacy/support services (non-licensed)
  • Affirmative Business/Industry (ABI)
  • Assisted Competitive Employment (ACE)
  • Crisis intervention (non-licensed)
  • Drop-in centers (non-licensed), recovery centers, and Home-Based Crisis Intervention (HBCI)
  • Health home non-Medicaid care management
  • Non-Medicaid care coordination
  • Ongoing Integrated Supported Employment (OISE)
  • Psychosocial clubs
  • Supported education programs
  • Transformed Business Model (TBM)
  • Transitional Employment Program (TEP)
  • Work programs

Although the supplemental guidance addresses the method of delivery services, it doesn’t alter the funding amount or service requirements for the programs. Providers are allowed to deliver any appropriate services through telemental health. For recipients with service needs that can’t be met through telemental health, agencies are expected to ensure the individual’s service-related needs are met to the extent possible. Providers are directed to indicate in their documentation that a service was provided telephonically or by video. When providing face-to-face services, providers must follow guidance previously issued for behavioral health programs.

Supplemental Guidance on the Use of Telehealth in OMH-Licensed or Funded Residential Programs

On March 19, the OMH released supplemental guidance waiving face-to-face requirements for delivering services in OMH-licensed or funded residential programs for the duration of the disaster emergency and allowing the use of telehealth capabilities. The supplemental guidance clarifies that on-site staffing requirements in programs with 24-hour staffing haven’t been waived. Instead, programs must have on-site staff even in instances where it’s appropriate for the program to utilize telehealth to deliver services to certain individuals.

The supplemental guidance, however, only applies to the following OMH residential programs:

  • Adult and children’s community residences
  • Apartment/treatment programs
  • Supported housing community services
  • Supported/single room occupancy
  • SRO community residence
  • Residential treatment facilities (RTF)

Importantly, only the delivery of services is addressed, and the funding amount and service requirements remain unchanged.

Any appropriate service may be delivered through telemental health. For recipients with service needs that can’t be met through telemental health, the OMH supplemental guidance states that agencies must ensure the individual’s service-related needs are met to the extent possible (e.g., medication supervision, assistance accessing food or medications). Providers are directed to indicate in their documentation that a service was provided telephonically or by video. In instances where face-to-face services are provided, providers must follow guidance previously issued for behavioral health programs.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Dena DeFazio, associate, at ddefazio@barclaydamon.com or another member of the firm’s Health Care & Human Services Practice Area.

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