Telemedicine video conference

Wisconsinites who need mental health services will have new options available for virtual appointments under a new grant program announced Tuesday.

Speaking at a press event at Appleton’s Partnership Community Health Center, Gov. Tony Evers announced a new $5 million federal grant program that will expand telehealth options.

Half of the funding will go into five one-year, $500,000 grants for hospitals to expand and enhance their mental health services for children. The other half will fund grants to create what Evers called “neighborhood telehealth access points.”

“They could be at food pantries, they could be at homeless shelters; they could be at libraries (or) in long-term care facilities, community centers and schools,” Evers said.

Both initiatives are aimed at expanding access to mental health services, something Evers has said is a goal for the state.

More than many other medical services, mental health appointments done through a video chat can work well for patients and providers. They became the norm in the early months of the pandemic, and changes to the law made at that time to accommodate telehealth services have largely stayed in place. But health care policy experts have warned of barriers to accessing telehealth services for some patients, including those whose digital literacy is low or those who have bad or unreliable internet service at home.

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