Exploring the Challenge of Access to Mental Health Treatment

May 23, 2020

It’s difficult for people seeking mental health treatment to get it right now. COVID-19 has effectively halted most non-essential doctors’ visits and accessing behavioral health treatment is even more challenging than in the past due to limitations with residential treatment and outpatient group sessions.

It’s difficult for people seeking mental health treatment to get it right now. COVID-19 has effectively halted most non-essential doctors’ visits and accessing behavioral health treatment is even more challenging than in the past due to limitations with residential treatment and outpatient group sessions.

The pandemic is creating worldwide stress and anxiety – about when people will go back to work, concerns for the health of themselves or family members and the crippling economy.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found nearly half of Americans say the pandemic is negatively affecting their mental health, and three-fourths believe the worst is still yet to come.

This is a time when people need mental health support the most. But, having access to treatment remains challenging for most. In fact, according to a recent report from Mental Health America, 57% of adults with a mental illness receive no treatment.

Providers and prescribers are doing their best at getting patients the help they need but keeping track of real-time treatment availability is difficult. Additional resources aimed at empowering patients are essential.

Easier and more readily available access to treatment is what this country needs. The emerging mental health crisis is going to be with us for some time, and it’s essential the behavioral health community stay ahead. Some states have implemented reliable, statewide technology platforms that streamline the treatment referral process, reducing the average time per referral from hours to less than 30 minutes.

In addition, these platforms enable members of the community to seek treatment for themselves and loved ones when needed – but getting it on a national scale is crucial. For those seeking mental health or substance use treatment, having access to the same kinds of tools and resources as providers and prescribers may help them find the treatment for which they are looking.

As we learn more about how the pandemic is affecting the mental health of Americans, it is important to remember the stigma felt from mental illness.  That feeling of stigmatization and isolation is very real and could cause people to avoid seeking treatment. But, with tools and resources that maintain a user’s confidentiality, searching for treatment can be made easier during these difficult times.

One in five people will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. The current pandemic is having a major impact on our citizens and our behavioral health community. Utilizing tools and technology available now can make a big impact in both the short and long-term health of our country.

Rob Cohen is president of Appriss Health.