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LB 556: Provide for telehealth services for children and families, and provide mental and behavioral health screenings at childhood physicals

As introduced: The intent of LB 556 is to help parents access behavioral healthcare for their children, reduce the time that a child spends out of the classroom, address the shared community goal of keeping children healthy and in school, provide access to medical and mental health specialists to rural and/or undeserved areas that may not otherwise have access at locations convenient for the family. This will be implemented through telemedicine services for children in physicians’ offices and public schools.

The bill also requires mental health screenings as part of childhood physicals (at pre kindergarten, seventh, and ninth grade).

As Amended: Intent language is included in the bill providing for optional behavioral health screenings to be offered by physicians at the time of childhood physicals versus mandatory. Mental health and substance abuse services received by a child are eligible for medical assistance coverage (Medicaid) and related services for telehealth services. The language in current law regarding the early and periodic screening and diagnostic treatment program is expanded to include behavioral health screening, diagnosis and treatment services.

The bill also establishes the Behavioral Health Screening and Referral Pilot Program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). The pilot program will be offered through three clinics selected in the state, including one urban and one rural site. Behavioral health screening for children is to be provided at each clinic. Children identified as at risk may be referred for further evaluation and diagnosis and a treatment plan is to be developed if intervention is required. Consultation via telephone or telehealth with staff at UNMC shall be available. Data on the pilot program shall be collected and evaluated. The pilot program terminates two years after the effective date of the bill.

Introducing Senator(s): McGill (priority)

Committee:  Health and Human Services

Committee Hearing Date: February 14, 2013

Current Status: Approved by Governor on June 4, 2013

Estimated Fiscal Impact: HHS Expenditures: HHS indicates there will be one-time costs to develop rules and regulations. It is assumed the department has sufficient staff and resources to develop rules. The bill requires HHS to provide for transmission costs for telehealth services. It is assumed that increased transmission costs will be at least equal to current costs, so expenditures will increase by $2,969 ($1,336 G, $1,633 F) in FY14 and $3,036 ($1,384 G, $1,652 F) in FY15.

UNMC Expenditures: UNMC estimates $450,000 of general funds will be needed for the pilot telehealth project in FY 2013-14 and FY15.

Voices for Children’s Position: Support

Research: Behavioral Health in Nebraska; Improving Behavioral Health Access; Behavioral Health Issue Brief

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