The gap in mental health care provision is now so severe that some analysts have described it as ‘staggering’. According to a report in US News, 4 in 10 US adults who require mental health treatment are unable to obtain it, and this situation is unlikely to improve in the near future. Indeed, most US healthcare bodies are expecting further staff shortages. In such a crisis, creativity is needed to find a way out – and that will start by broadening the support that people are able to obtain.
One of the benefits of mental health treatment is that it can be obtained by anyone, at any time, through online services. Indeed, digital therapy services have provided real recovery to people all over the country, cutting out the lengthy process of healthcare provider referrals. As Forbes highlights, the exact roles of individual healthcare providers vary; only psychiatrists can prescribe medicine, and psychologists need to be licensed and with a master’s degree to practice. Broadening these roles, for instance through specialist nursing, will help to provide better access to treatment in the first instance.
Even where staff and resources are available to provide mental health care, many insurance providers simply don’t provide equitable access to the packages that patients need in order to access care. This is the opinion of The Washington Post, which notes that many insurance packages treat mental and physical care in an extremely uneven way, prioritizing the latter. With the input of healthcare professionals, rebalancing this picture will become an important part of reforming the system.
Providing smarter funding
Despite the USA spends more on healthcare per capita than many other developed nations, it has a relatively low ranking in terms of healthcare quality. This points to huge inefficiencies in the system which can only be rectified through federal action. Looking for ways to fund the healthcare system, through legislation, is key. Only the smart use of funding, rather than continuing to simply push money where it seems it might sit best, will lead to the total reform of the system to enable mental health support.
Mental health is, of course, not a simple issue. It hits on physical health, and vice-versa; it cannot be ignored when considering wider health outcomes. The sooner the system recognizes this, the sooner it can start making meaningful change.