Dr. Karen Cohen on telehealth advocacy
What is on the docket for the CPA in terms of advocacy for psychologists doing tele-psychology?
Advocacy for access to funded psychological services has been on the docket for us for some time. I think there are some exciting things happening now. The Canadian Alliance for Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH), for example, is putting together a policy position calling for parity – so, requiring our governments and funders to provide coverage equivalently for mental and physical disorders.
HEAL, which is organizations for Health Action, all the national health care organizations, also has access to mental health services as one of it’s advocacy priorities. And the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) has put together a network on which CPA sits, looking at access to psychotherapies for Canadians. So that work will continue.
In the current situation, we’ve been in touch with the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) and we’ve been calling on them to reach out to all their members, who are all the individual insurers, to cover services delivered virtually by psychologists. Every plan differs and that’s one of the challenges when it comes to doing advocacy when it comes to access, particularly in the private sector. There’s not one funder and there’s not one plan and there’s not one plan sponsor. They all have oversight individually over what those plans look like, so you can imagine how many conversations have to be had to make the change we’re looking for.
This is why it’s helpful to have an organization like CLHIA, because they have a conduit to their insurance members. The other thing we’ve been asking them is that some policies have a requirement for a physician referral. So to access a psychologist, the plan will cover it IF you’re referred by a physician. We’ve been calling on them for some time to waive this requirement, and especially now.
Our health providers – family doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners – are working hard to address the needs of patients and particularly the needs of patients who might have concerns about COVID. Having them make a referral to a psychologist who is someone you could otherwise see without the referral, doesn’t make a lot of sense. So we’re working hard to try to advocate for that as well.