August 5, 2020

Florida Association of Managing Entities Commends Presidential Order Expanding Telehealth Services

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Association of Managing Entities (FAME) today said a new presidential executive order will help Floridians well into the future by expanding telehealth options permanently, beyond the immediate COVID-19 crisis. The executive order focuses on improving health care access for rural communities by removing regulatory burdens and creating new mental health initiatives.

Florida’s Managing Entities administer the state’s behavioral health safety net system, which provides mental health and substance abuse services to 300,000 low-income Floridians. Telehealth services help those with limited access to traditional care. President Trump’s executive order will expand access by reducing restrictions. The executive order also commits the government to invest in improving the physical and communications infrastructure of health care for Americans.

“We applaud President Trump and his administration for removing barriers to telehealth services as this will expand access to critical mental health care for elderly, disabled, and low-income populations,” said Natalie Kelly, Chief Executive Officer of FAME. “The order reinforces the value these services provide to people in need beyond times of crisis, and we hope it will be the first of many steps to fully embrace telehealth care for the long term.”

The COVID-19 crisis has limited access to in-person hospital and clinical care for patients across Florida and the nation. In response, the use of telehealth services has dramatically increased. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that virtual visits for Medicare and Medicaid patients skyrocketed from approximately 14,000 visits before COVID-19 to about 1.7 million virtual visits at the end of April.

FAME has seen a similar trend of Floridians within safety net system using telehealth services, especially telephonic or audio-only telehealth services. During the earliest days of the crisis, in March and April, data from over 300 mental health and substance abuse providers in all 67 Florida counties showed a 300% increase in the use of telephonic services by Floridians receiving behavioral care services. Since then, the number of telehealth services reported by the Managing Entities has remained at this elevated level, making this an issue that Florida lawmakers will have to face on a state level as well.

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About the Florida Association of Managing Entities

The Florida Association of Managing Entities (FAME) is the statewide organization representing Florida’s seven Managing Entities. FAME’s mission is to advance the behavioral health recovery of individuals and their families in the state of Florida.