This episode of the Delta Center podcast features John Solomon, LPC, CPHQ, a behavioral health counselor from rural Alaska, discussing the importance of expanding the telehealth system and reimbursement policy to support these services that increase access to care, especially for communities that have been historically marginalized. John is the Director of Behavioral Health at Maniilaq Association, which provides health and social services to twelve federally recognized Tribes in Northwest Alaska and serves as the largest employer in the area.
John Solomon spent years as an indie rocker in Minnesota, and now uses his voice to speak out as an advocate for telehealth in rural Alaska. John has seen first-hand how flexibility in reimbursement for telehealth during the COVID-19 public health emergency increased access to mental health and substance use care while also creating new job opportunities for rural Native Alaskan communities. John's story is relevant for any state still pushing for making telehealth flexibility permanent after the public health emergency ends.
Together, Alaska Primary Care Association (APCA) and the Alaska Behavioral Health Association (ABHA) are participating in Phase 2 of the Delta Center’s State Learning and Action Collaborative, where they brought together a multidisciplinary advisory group of consumer advocates and policy and practice experts to advocate for telehealth legislation. Fortunately, the Alaska legislature passed telehealth legislation (HB 265) in May 2022! This new state law protects audio and video telehealth access and expands Medicaid coverage of those services. It also removes a current requirement for an in-person visit with a healthcare professional prior to treatment and permits clients to have follow-up telehealth visits from providers who are licensed in another state, but have an established relationship with the client.
Listen to the podcast below or download via SoundCloud.