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Telehealth is an important care option in the Wichita community

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Many of us probably heard very little about telehealth prior to the pandemic. But even after the initial surge in 2020, telehealth options have proven their staying power in the area of mental health, as evidenced by 36% of patients using telehealth services in 2021, a 420% increase over 2019.

People in Wichita who were not familiar with telehealth or video-conferencing apps had the option of coming to a provider’s office – using the business’ internet service and devices – to receive care. And those in rural areas had the ability to be seen from their home or workplace. With the commute time mitigated, mental health care suddenly become viable for anyone. Providers who were previously Wichita-based were suddenly serving people in a multitude of Kansas counties and surrounding states, areas which in the past would have been well outside of their regional scope. But with the physical barriers removed, a much wider breadth of programs became available to thousands of people who likely were not getting care prior to 2020.

Concerns remain about Medicare’s continued reimbursement to agencies who provide this care. The fact is that no less time or expertise is required of therapists regardless of whether the appointment is in-person or via telehealth. And failure to reimburse medical experts at rates commensurate with their resource input could create a mass exodus from the market by the mental health practitioners currently available in south-central Kansas. As it is, multiple local providers rely on remote practitioners to fill specialized niches of mental health care, some of whom live as far away as Hawaii.

Whether or not you are currently receiving care, consider utilizing telehealth to clearly demonstrate to our legislators how important this care option is in the Wichita community.

Eric Litwiller has served the south central Kansas community through his work at Mental Health Association since September of 2017. As Director of Development and Communications, he is charged with seeking the private investment required to raise awareness of the scope of mental health concerns throughout the region in an effort to eliminate the unfair stigma associated with mental illness.