More Americans Are Reaching Out For Mental Health Support — But Can’t Get It

For many Americans who live with a mood disorder, cost remains a major hurdle to accessing mental health care, according to a survey on mood disorders published this week by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI.

Over half of the survey’s respondents (which included people living with mood disorders and their caregivers) said that cost prevents them from trying a treatment they’re interested in, says psychiatrist Ken Duckworth, NAMI’s chief medical officer.

Cost was also the reason for discontinuing treatment for about a quarter of the respondents who were able to get care.

Even finding a mental health care provider can be hard

The survey also revealed that many people don’t even know how to find mental health support.

“Forty-eight percent are unsure if they’re eligible to receive care, and nearly as many are unsure about how to access services,” Duckworth says.

Many people with mood disorders are unemployed and uninsured, says David Lloyd, a senior policy adviser at the mental health advocacy group the Kennedy Forum.

“Some of these conditions — they’re particularly disabling [and] can result in people being unemployed,” he says. Losing insurance that way is not uncommon.

But even for people with Medicaid or private health insurance, getting access to therapy and other kinds of mental health support remains complicated, hard to navigate and expensive, Yeboah-Sampong says.

Why aren’t more therapists in network?

“One reason that the lists are narrow, it’s that historically reimbursement rates for mental health providers have been much lower than for physical health providers,” Sika Yeboah-Sampong, a staff attorney at the advocacy group Legal Action Center, says.

That continues to be true, according to a 2019 analysis by Milliman, a risk management company.

As a result, a large proportion of therapists and psychiatrists are out of network, she says, and in-network providers are often overworked with long waitlists.

Why patients often ration their use of mental health care

Patients will instead pay for as long as they can — say two to three months — “and then, the funds run out, and they have no care,” Yeboah-Sampong says.

Ultimately, these hurdles to getting mental health care produce a lack of parity between insurance coverage of mental and physical health, she adds, despite the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which requires insurers to cover mental health the same way they cover physical health.

With the rise in mental health symptoms during the pandemic, he says, it’s even more urgent to improve access to care for everybody. People are now more open to discussing their mental health, this week’s survey notes.

People who do get treatment find it helpful

The survey also found that when people were able to get treatment, the majority — 70% — found it helpful.

“The public is beginning to recognize in a new way that mental health is a health care priority, and a large percentage of people seem to appreciate that it could happen to anyone,” Duckworth says.

Excerpted from “More Americans Are Reaching Out For Mental Health Support — But Can’t Get It” on NPR. Read the full article online.

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Source: NPR | More Americans Are Reaching Out For Mental Health Support — But Can’t Get It, | © 2021 npr

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