Through the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act signed on March 4, 2020, and 1135 waiver authority, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded the ability for credentialed providers to utilize telehealth services, including tele-behavioral health. Many states enacted executive orders to mandate private health insurers follow suit and reimburse for tele-visits during COVID-19. These changes, coupled with unprecedented social, behavioral and physical health needs, made both social workers and clients dependent upon tele-behavioral health.

This study measured the extent to which social workers were able to transition to tele-behavioral health during COVID-19 and the barriers and facilitators they experienced during this rapid change to tele-behavioral health service delivery.


Prior to COVID-19 only 28% of the sample reported using tele-behavioral health to provide services, while 34% reported their organization used tele-behavioral health. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, 92% of respondents reported using tele-behavioral health and 95% indicated the organization they work for now has tele-capabilities. Of those who used tele-behavioral health prior to COVID-19, respondents indicated that they increased the average use of this method from 21% to almost 88% of their client caseload.


Thanks to the National Association of Social Workers for their support of this project.


Brianna Lombardi, PhD, University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work
Lisa de Saxe Zerden, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work
Christopher Thyberg, MSW, University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work