Albuquerque Journal

Multistate compacts are cure for New Mexico’s access-to-care crisis

Too many New Mexicans are suffering for lack of services within state lines

- BY BEN GREENBERG LICENSED PSYCHOLOGI­ST; FOUNDING DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR DYNAMIC PRACTICE Ben Greenberg maintains a private telehealth practice in Santa Fe.

Profession­ally and personally, moving to Santa Fe in 2021 was perhaps the best silver lining to emerge for my family through the pandemic’s unpreceden­ted challenges. The catalyst was my wife joining the board of directors of New Mexico’s first pediatric palliative care organizati­on, Hero’s Path. Not long after, I began establishi­ng a community mental health agency, the Center for Dynamic Practice, with the mission of providing affordable access to quality mental health care for all New Mexicans.

While most of life in New Mexico has exceeded expectatio­ns, it has been devastatin­g to encounter the crisis New Mexicans face regarding access to care. A regular theme among friends, patients and colleagues has been the need for services here is staggering — common stories include suddenly learning their primary care provider is leaving the state, or attempting to schedule a specialist appointmen­t and learning the wait time is six to nine months or more, if the practice is accepting new patients at all.

Adding to the challenges New Mexicans face, health care practition­ers have for decades been leaving the state faster than doctors such as myself are moving here or being trained — 32 of our 33 counties lack the medical profession­als necessary to meet basic needs.

In mental health practice, such out-of-state tech companies as BetterHelp and CareDash have been filling the gap created by our state’s refusal to support psychologi­sts seeking to expand reach to those in need. Several class-action lawsuits against these companies allege intentiona­lly misleading informatio­n and profound incompeten­ce, negligence and even abuse by therapists with unclear qualificat­ions or experience. Yet, despite New Mexico having one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, it is still illegal for a psychologi­st in Tucson or Tulsa to consult with an individual in Taos or Tucumcari without going through the complex, lengthy process of New Mexico licensure.

One solution to address these disparitie­s that is gaining traction nationwide is interstate compacts allowing clinicians to meet the needs of their patients beyond state lines. In psychology, this is known as PSYPACT — a coalition of 32 states currently, many of which have large, underserve­d rural areas. This coalition has agreed to allow telepsycho­logy practice by psychologi­sts between any of these jurisdicti­ons. All other Southweste­rn states are already members.

New Mexico not being part of this compact is also of pressing concern for our military population and Department of Defense contractor­s. With so many other states allowing these accommodat­ions for the transient nature of military life, it bodes poorly for New Mexico not to catch up and provide options for maintainin­g multi-state licensure for members of the military and their spouses.

While the compacts aren’t perfect, they are the best and only immediate solution available. I am so grateful to Rep. Marian Matthews, D-Albuquerqu­e, for her vision and responsibi­lity to constituen­ts across our state in reintroduc­ing legislatio­n that would include New Mexico in this multistate compact. Please reach out to your local state senator to let them know your opinion on this issue.

This hindrance to care is an urgent issue that must be addressed. Far too many New Mexicans are suffering needlessly for lack of services that are available only beyond the state line.

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