Floridians who leave the state will now be able to keep their mental health therapists under a new law.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill May 25 that authorizes Florida to join an interstate compact allowing psychologists to keep treating patients when they leave the state. And it allows people who come to Florida for college or other reasons to stay with psychologists they’re comfortable with from home.
Proponents say the compact allows for more continuity of care and helps lessen the burden on a strained mental health care industry.
Here’s what to know.
What does the bill do?
HB 33 authorizes Florida’s involvement in the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact, also called Psypact.
Despite its weighty name, the compact’s aim is simple. It allows participating psychologists to continue both telehealth and in-person sessions to patients who are away from their home state.
Psychological practitioners may not currently administer care to patients outside Florida. But soon, they’ll be able to apply for a certification that grants them the ability to continue care while their patients are in other compact states. Once a practitioner is certified, they may provide care to patients in any participating state.
There is no ceiling for how long practitioners can provide telehealth to patients, while in-person care is limited to 30 days per calendar year.
Who does this help?
Proponents say the goal is to help people like those traveling on business trips, snowbirds coming to Florida during the winter months or college students going to school out of state.
“We just want to make sure that the residents of Florida have as much access to mental health care as possible,” said state Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, D-Parkland, who cosponsored the bill in the House. “So the idea being that it’s a very personal thing, finding a trusted psychologist, and we want to make sure that you can continue to see that person even if you’re out of state temporarily or for an extended period of time.”
The program aims to help alleviate a growing national need for psychological care. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration predicts that the demand for psychologists in the U.S. will increase 7% by 2030 and estimates that Florida could have a shortage of 1,420 clinical, counseling and school psychologists by the same date.
“I think the main inspiration is recognizing that we’ve got an access to mental health crisis going on,” said Traci Koster, R-Tampa, the bill’s other cosponsor. “I think it’s just another tool in the toolbox.”
Who pushed for this in Florida?
Koster and Hunschofsky sponsored the bill in the Florida House, while state Sens. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, and Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, ushered it through the Senate. The compact was approved unanimously by both chambers.
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Hunschofsky says that her support of the bill was motivated by her time as the mayor of Parkland during the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, in which 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 students and staff and injured 17 others.
“This isn’t a partisan issue, it’s a human being issue,” Hunschofsky said. “More access, more availability. We have a workforce shortage in behavioral health, and it’s just wonderful to see the commitment from so many people in the Legislature to really make a difference in this area.”
What other states are involved?
Thirty-five states, including nearly all of the Midwest and Southeast, are members of the compact, with Florida, North Dakota, Rhode Island and South Carolina all set to join this summer. Vermont comes into effect next year, while Massachusetts and New York have introduced legislation that would authorize them to join.
When will this go into effect?
The legislation goes into effect July 1. Practitioners will then have to apply for the certification to practice across state lines.