Washingtonians can now refill their birth control, receive pregnancy options counseling, acquire emergency contraceptives, and get screenings for sexually transmitted infections through a new telehealth tool.
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The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) launched the new tool to help residents find telehealth sexual and reproductive healthcare services. It offers information about 37 clinics in the state’s sexual and reproductive health network that provide telehealth appointments. It also provides gender affirming care and pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention at some sites if the individual has previously received services from the provider.
“Telehealth is an important way to get more people the sexual and reproductive healthcare they need when they need it,” DOH Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Community Health Michele Roberts said in a statement. “This option will help increase access in parts of the state where an in-person visit may be challenging. Patients can still receive the same level of care remotely in a setting that suits them best.”
The importance of residents’ ability to connect with healthcare providers remotely was highlighted during the past few years through the COVID-19 pandemic, DOH officials said. This initiative will help prevent delays in accessing care, and make sexual and reproductive health services accessible for more residents. More than half of Washington’s counties are experiencing primary care provider shortages, and the limited availability of health facilities often means rural residents must travel long distances to access care. Telehealth services will help remove barriers to care.
The new webpage was partially funded by an Office of Population Affairs grant for telehealth infrastructure enhancement and expansion.
Lawmakers are currently considering another initiative that could improve telehealth access in Washington. The House passed House Bill 1069 in February, and the Senate Committee on Health and Long Term Care is scheduled to hold a public hearing on it on Friday.
HB 1069 would enact the Counseling Compact in Washington. The compact would allow professional counselors in Washington whose license has been unencumbered for at least two years, and who meet other compact requirements, to practice in other states that have enacted the compact. It would allow counselors outside of Washington who are licensed by a compact member state, and whose license has been unencumbered for two years, to practice in Washington as long as their license includes the ability to independently assess, diagnose, and treat behavioral health conditions.