Senate Committee Approves Telemedicine Mental Health Bill for American Indians, Alaska Natives
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Thursday approved by voice vote a bill that would authorize $6 million to provide mental health services for suicide prevention, intervention and treatment available to American Indians and Alaska Natives through expanded telemedicine systems, CongressDaily reports. Under the legislation, sponsored by committee Chair Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), five tribes or tribal organizations that currently provide mental health services through telemedicine systems would share $1.5 million in fiscal year 2008 and each of the three subsequent fiscal years. HHS would administer the demonstration projects for the expanded telemedicine systems, which would allow mental health professionals to conduct psychotherapy and assessment interviews over long distances and offer advice to onsite health care providers. In addition, the bill would authorize HHS to collect and report suicide data, as well as provide training and related support for community leaders, family members, and health care and education workers. The legislation also would require HHS to provide a report to the appropriate congressional committees (Talbott, CongressDaily, 2/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.