Breaking Boundaries for Mental Health: Florida Enacts Legislation Allowing Therapists to Maintain Patient Relationships Across States

Breaking Boundaries for Mental Health: Florida Enacts Legislation Allowing Therapists to Maintain Patient Relationships Across States

Floridians who seek mental health therapy can now breathe a sigh of relief as a new law allows them to maintain their relationship with their therapists even if they leave the state. Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill on May 25, which enables Florida to join an interstate compact known as the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (Psypact). This move aims to promote continuity of care and alleviate the strain on the mental health care industry.

The Psypact permits psychologists from participating states to provide both telehealth and in-person sessions to patients who are away from their home state. Currently, psychologists in Florida are unable to administer care to patients residing outside the state. However, once certified through Psypact, practitioners can continue providing care to patients in any participating state.

The compact primarily benefits individuals who frequently travel for business, “snowbirds” who spend the winter months in Florida, and college students attending out-of-state schools. By allowing them to retain their trusted psychologists, the law ensures that they have consistent access to mental health care, regardless of their temporary or extended absence from the state.

The significance of this program extends beyond individual needs. The United States is facing an increasing demand for psychological care, with a projected 7% rise in the demand for psychologists by 2030, according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. Florida itself is estimated to experience a shortage of 1,420 clinical, counseling, and school psychologists by the same year. The new law serves as a vital tool to address these challenges and improve access to mental health services.

The bill, which was cosponsored by state Representative Christine Hunschofsky and Traci Koster, received unanimous approval from both the House and the Senate. Hunschofsky, who was motivated by her experience as the mayor of Parkland during the tragic Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, emphasized the bipartisan nature of the issue and the commitment of the Legislature to make a difference in mental health care.

Florida will be joining 35 other states, predominantly in the Midwest and Southeast, as a member of the Psypact. North Dakota, Rhode Island, and South Carolina are also set to join this summer, with Vermont’s membership taking effect next year. Additionally, Massachusetts and New York have introduced legislation to authorize their participation in the compact.

The legislation will take effect on July 1, and practitioners will then be able to apply for certification to practice across state lines. This groundbreaking law represents a significant step forward in expanding mental health care access and improving the well-being of individuals in Florida, regardless of their geographical location.