The study examined temporal and geographic trends in telehealth availability at U.S. behavioral health treatment facilities and risk factors for not offering telehealth.
Longitudinal data on 15,691 outpatient behavioral health treatment facilities were extracted daily from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator between January 20, 2020, and January 20, 2021. Facilities operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs were excluded. Bivariate analyses were used to assess trends in telehealth availability in 2020 and 2021. Multivariable regression analysis was used to examine facility- and county-level characteristics associated with telehealth availability in 2021.
Telehealth availability increased by 77% from 2020 to 2021 for mental health treatment facilities and by 143% for substance use disorder treatment facilities. By January 2021, 68% of outpatient mental health facilities and 57% of substance use disorder treatment facilities in the sample were offering telehealth. Mental health and substance use disorder treatment facilities that did not accept Medicaid as a form of payment were less likely to offer telehealth in 2021, compared with facilities that accepted Medicaid. Mental health and substance use disorder treatment facilities that accepted private insurance were more likely to offer telehealth in 2021, compared with facilities that did not accept private insurance.
Although 2020 saw a dramatic increase in telehealth availability at behavioral health treatment facilities, 32% of mental health treatment facilities and 43% of substance use disorder treatment facilities did not offer telehealth in January 2021, nearly 1 year into the pandemic.