U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced legislation Tuesday that would require the federal government to explore the use of telehealth as a cost-efficient way to provide students with substance use disorders – such as an addiction to alcohol or opioids – the professional help they need at their school health clinics.
The legislation – known as the Telehealth for Children’s Access to Services and Treatment Act (TeleCAST Act) – would direct the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to study options to provide students Medicaid-funded telehealth services at their school health centers, especially in rural and underserved areas where the number of available doctors is more scarce.
“The nation’s opioid crisis is devastating our communities,” Nelson said. “Providing our students easy access to the treat these substance use disorders sooner rather than later is just another small step we can take in this ongoing fight against this growing public health emergency.”
Telehealth services allow patients to meet with a doctor via video conferencing or over the phone, instead of requiring them to meet in person.
By using telehealth services, one doctor can be available to students at multiple schools in a single day. It also eliminates the time and expense that often prohibits some rural patients from seeking help from a doctor located miles away.
The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Tom Carper (D-DE), John Cornyn (R-TX), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD) and Mark Warner (D-VA).
Here is a copy of the TeleCAST Act.