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Report cites major mental-health issue: Getting access to care

Mental health access challenges.  Picture of a woman seeking help.
Mental health access

A new report contended only one in three people with commercial health insurance and a mental health condition is able to find proper mental health care.

Released by the mental health advocacy group Inseparable, the report found significant barriers in Americans' ability to access and afford services for mental health and substance use disorders.

Dr. Benjamin Miller, a clinical psychiatrist and co-author of the report, said one big concern is overall, the nation continues to treat mental health as less important than other aspects of health.

"We've constructed these walls and artificial barriers around care, and it's become one of the most difficult things to see," Miller asserted. "When you're in a crisis -- where you or your loved one need the help that they need -- you have to work harder to get that help. It's almost, like, the cruelest irony in health care."

Miller pointed out the report features more than a dozen evidence-based solutions for state policymakers. And it includes scorecards to illustrate each state's progress in adopting policies to make mental health care easier to find and pay for.

The study also noted a lack of follow-up care after emergency room or hospital visits, meaning a majority of those who seek help for mental health or substance use are at increased risk of relapse and readmission. Miller added many of them cannot find a practitioner.

"We talk a lot about our workforce because if there's no clinicians out there to do the work and we keep referring people into a system and there's just not enough people there to treat them," Miller observed. "We've got to solve that problem, too."

Angela Kimball, chief advocacy officer for Inseparable and co-author of the report, added the majority of health care policies are made at the state level, which is where her group is making the biggest push for change.

"We're seeing, in states like Illinois, legislators who are introducing really important legislation to try and address some of the barriers that are keeping them from being able to access the mental health and substance use services that they need and deserve," Kimball emphasized.

In Wisconsin, the report showed 1,080,000 people with a diagnosed mental health condition.

About 37 percent of those dealing with a mental health condition who had commercial insurance were receiving specialized care in Wisconsin.

That rose to 47 percent for those on Medicaid.

5.4 percent of people in Wisconsin had no insurance.

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