'It's really crucial': Local psychologists push for interstate practice, say continuity is key

ByMelanie Woodrow KGO logo
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
Local psychologists advocating for interstate practice
Some California psychologists are advocating for the right to continue seeing their patients remotely, even if their patients have moved out of state.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Some California psychologists are advocating for legislation that would enable them to continue seeing their patients remotely even if their patients have moved out of state. Dozens of other states have adopted the legislation.

After being furloughed from her job and her grandfather passing away, Kieva McCullough decided she wanted to start therapy.

"Finally got to the point where I was like, 'okay I really need to do this for me,'" said McCullough.

RELATED: Managing pandemic anxiety amid 4th surge, Bay Area psychologist weighs in

At the time, McCullough was travelling between California and Oregon to help her mom move.

"It wasn't until I had made my appointment that I was then told that I had to be physically in the state of California," said McCullough.

"It was super disappointing. It took a lot to make that phone call," she continued.

While telehealth is an option for many, especially during the pandemic, it is not allowed for psychologists licensed in California if their patients are across state lines.

VIDEO: Pandemic anxiety returns amid COVID-19 setbacks, mask recommendations in Bay Area

As talk ramps up of possible mask mandates and the number of COVID-19 cases increasing, people are starting to feel down.

Dr. Emily Sachs is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in San Francisco. She is not McCullough's doctor.

"People want to be able to continue with their therapists when they're in other states, people want to be able to access that expertise, and they're really baffled about why that's not allowed," said Dr. Sachs.

Psychologists are licensed in the state they practice. Dr. Sachs says a model that doesn't recognize reciprocity between states, especially during a pandemic, is archaic.

"People in COVID were losing jobs had to move back in with their families - if they lived in another state, that's the end of your relationship with your therapist at a time that it's really crucial to have that continuity," said Dr. Sachs.

She created a change.org petition advocating for The Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact, known as PSYPACT, which allows psychologists to practice across state lines.

RELATED: Bay Area sees therapist shortage as California reopens following COVID-19 pandemic

Twenty-two states have effectively enacted PSYPACT legislation.

Four more states have enacted it, but it is either not yet effective or under further review.

Beyond continuity of care, Dr. Sachs says PSYPACT also provides access to appropriate care for anyone looking for help.

"So even if they can find a therapist, that person might not be competent in the area of practice that they need - Another reason why interstate practice would be important to help people that aren't being reached now," said Dr. Sachs.

In order to receive treatment from a provider in another state, Dr. Sachs says both the state the provider is located in, and the state the patient is located in, must be PSYPACT states.

TAKE ACTION: How to get help with mental health issues

"This mainly affects telehealth because that's how people often practice across state lines," said Dr. Sachs.

The California Board of Psychology will discuss PSYPACT at a public meeting next week.

It's legislation McCullough says could help people like her.

"I just really think it would put the patients first," said McCullough.

Having trouble loading the tracker above? Click here to open it in a new window. RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS: