Press Release

WellCare's Staywell Health Plan Offers Behavioral Health Care via Telehealth to Increase Access, Convenience and Engagement for Its Florida Medicaid Members

Company Release - 3/29/2016 8:30 AM ET

TAMPA, Fla., March 29, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Staywell Health Plan, a WellCare (NYSE:WCG) health plan dedicated to serving Medicaid members in Florida, now offers its members behavioral health care services via a telehealth option to increase engagement, convenience and access to care.

After the unexpected death of his father, Angel, a Staywell Health Plan member who has Asperger's Syndrome, stopped eating and didn't want to go to school. His mother, Jennifer Castro, got him the behavioral health care he needed and persuaded him to try telehealth. He now meets with his therapist via video conference from the privacy of his bedroom. "It was hard to convince him at first, but he loves his therapist," she said. "His self-esteem is improving big time." His mother took this photo of him on a recent trip to the beach.

One out of every five adults has a diagnosable mental disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Because behavioral health issues can frequently accompany or complicate physical health issues, WellCare fully integrates behavioral health care to better address its members' total health needs.

Through its relationship with IMPOWER, an Orlando-based nonprofit mental health and child well-being organization, Staywell members are able to have video conference sessions with clinicians using a computer or tablet from the comfort of their own homes. This convenient option eliminates the time and cost associated with traveling to appointments and missed work or school. If medication is needed, it can be delivered directly to members' homes, in some cases within 24 hours.

Until this month, IMPOWER was the only behavioral health organization in Florida with permission from the state for its providers to prescribe controlled substances for the treatment of mental illness to telehealth members. The FloridaBoard of Medicine recently updated its telemedicine regulations to allow other telehealth providers to also prescribe under the right conditions.

Jennifer Castro, 41, of Davenport, is a big proponent of telehealth. She and her 14-year-old son, Angel, are Staywell members.

After the unexpected death of his father, Angel, who has Asperger's Syndrome, withdrew even further. He stopped eating and didn't want to go to school. Castro got him the behavioral health care he needed, and persuaded him to give telehealth a try.

"It was hard to convince him, but he loves his therapist now," Castro said. "It's been helping. You can see it on his face. His self-esteem is improving big time."

Castro, who works as a preschool teacher at a daycare center, also appreciates the convenience and savings. She doesn't miss the hour-long drive to his appointments, or the cost of gas and food breaks along the way. Now Angel just takes the family laptop into his room for his appointments.

"Offering convenient treatment options to help our members get the care they need is critical to maintaining health and well-being," said Julie Harmon, WellCare of Florida's director of product operations – behavioral health. "Telehealth is a very convenient option that increases access to care, especially for those who live in rural areas and busy families juggling work and school schedules."

"IMPOWER has been the pioneer in utilizing telehealth for psychiatric and therapy services in Florida," said Anna M. Baznik, IMPOWER's president and CEO. "From the onset of our contract with WellCare, we have been strategic partners to both pilot test and implement our platform in Central Florida and soon statewide."

IMPOWER entered the telehealth arena due to a lack of available psychiatrists in the state, Baznik said, and quickly saw the benefits for members in improved access to care. Through telehealth, she said, members can get almost immediate access to a clinician versus traditional appointments, which can carry a three-month wait list.   

"We are working to change the face of mental illness and improve outcomes," she said. "Our partnership with WellCare has been key to our success thus far."

For more information about IMPOWER, visit

As of Dec. 31, 2015, WellCare serves approximately 781,000 Medicaid members, 55,000 Florida Healthy Kids members, 107,000 Medicare Advantage members and 39,000 Medicare Prescription Drug Plan members in Florida.

About WellCare Health Plans, Inc.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) focuses exclusively on providing government-sponsored managed care services, primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs. The Company serves approximately 3.8 million members nationwide as of Dec. 31, 2015. For more information about WellCare, please visit the Company's website at or view the company's videos at


Staywell Health Plans, Inc. is a WellCare health plan dedicated to serving Medicaid members in Florida. (PRNewsFoto/WellCare Health Plans, Inc.)


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SOURCE WellCare Health Plans, Inc.