Poverty, Mental Health, and Technology: Using Medicaid Section 1315A Innovation Grants to Test Out Own-Time Telemental Health Technology
Volume 90, No. 3, Spring 2018
By Sonya C. Bishop [PDF]

The behavioral health crisis looms, but popular culture teaches us that technology can heal all woes. Americans retain unfettered access to technologies that “solve” nonexistent problems. Terrified by the possibility of out-of-focus photos of your gerbil? Fear no more! Buy a smartphone app designed to take the perfect pet photo. Worried about putting one too many crystals of salt on your baked potato? Your new Bluetooth-enabled salt dispenser will measure out the precise amount. Though enchanting and readily available, most would agree that pet photo apps and Bluetooth salt dispensers do not serve necessary functions in our lives. The National Institute of Health has yet to declare a blurry cat photo crisis. The United States has, however, recognized a serious public health emergency around the availability of adequate behavioral health care for low-income people.

Low-income people are almost one-and-a-half times more likely to be diagnosed with a behavioral health disorder in comparison to their more affluent peers, yet low-income people are far less likely to receive adequate treatment.This lack of access to treatment is the result of many factors, including fewer providers are willing to treat low-income people, travelling to appointments presents expensive logistical issues, and many low-income people face considerable provider discrimination. However, technology, specifically telemental health (TMH), presents a practical solution to surmount this problem.

Sonya C. Bishop is a J.D. Candidate, Temple University Beasley School of Law, 2018.