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Idaho extends telehealth rules for out-of-state therapists

Out-of-state mental health therapists will be able to continue practicing in Idaho via telehealth without a local license through the end of the year.

State officials waived the local licensing requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic as mental health struggles skyrocketed across the country.

“We have been monitoring the state healthcare needs in responding to the resurgence of COVID-19, hospital staffing, provider shortages, and long-term patient needs for continuation of care through telehealth,” said Bob McGlaughlin, a spokesperson for Idaho’s Department of Occupational and Processional Licenses.

The waiver had been set to expire July 1, with some worried a sudden disruption could lead to a lapse in coverage for patients.

News of the extension was met with cheers from Beth Markley, executive director of the Idaho chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“I mean, it’s huge. Idaho has a shortage of providers,” Markley said.

In 2021, Idaho ranked 32nd among all states in the number of mental health providers per capita, according to America’s Health Rankings.

Even in the Treasure Valley, the state’s most populous region, wait times to get an initial appointment for new patients can be months, according to Markley. It can be even longer for those who need care from specialists.

Keeping expanded options open through telehealth, she said, helps to chip away at that backlog.

“If you’re trying to find a specialist with a very particular skillset to meet your needs, just having a broader array of opportunities can be just a huge benefit.”

Idaho lawmakers signed on to an agreement with 31 other states earlier this year that would allow providers to practice across state lines.

Therapists must apply for extra credentials to comply with that law once the waiver expires.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!