Most Americans have sought or want to seek mental health care, according to a comprehensive study by Cohen Veterans Network.
The study, America’s Mental Health 2018, found that 56% of Americans sought or wanted to seek behavioral health services for themselves or a loved one. More than three in four (76%) say that mental health is just as important as physical health.
Yet Americans also recognize that access to mental health care is limited at best. Nearly three in four (74%) of survey respondents believe that mental health services are “not available for everyone.” Nearly half say that behavioral health options are limited.
Clearly, the demand for mental health services outpaces the supply. In response, behavioral health providers are finding new ways to increase access to care. They’re also innovating existing care delivery methods to improve patient outcomes and service efficiency.
This is difficult if important work. But it’s also immensely inspiring work for the health system administrators, providers, and patient advocates getting it done. These videos tell their stories.
Oceans Healthcare: Bringing Quality Behavioral Healthcare Closer to Home
Oceans Healthcare, a Dallas-based behavioral healthcare system, is on a mission to increase access to behavioral health services across the Gulf Coast and mid-South regions of the United States.
Oceans recently posted a short video to its YouTube channel explaining how it’s going about this.
Since the early 2010s, Oceans has executed a long-term strategy of opening local behavioral healthcare clinics in smaller cities throughout its home region. This is a notable departure from the standard approach followed by most other behavioral healthcare providers. Oceans’ competitors typically focus on serving bigger cities and metropolitan areas, leaving large geographical gaps in coverage. Patients living outside major metropolitan areas may have to drive two or three hours — or more — to reach a suitable behavioral health clinic.
AJ+: Racial Disparities in Behavioral Healthcare Access
Uncomfortable as it may be to acknowledge, significant racial disparities persist across the healthcare industry, behavioral health included. In the aggregate, patients of color face greater barriers to access and quality care. This access gap, in turn, affects outcomes both at the individual and community levels.
This explainer from AJ+ tackles the root causes of this complex and challenging reality. It offers some tentative solutions for both patients and providers while acknowledging that true equity isn’t something that can be achieved overnight. Whether you’ve been working toward healthcare equity for years and need a gut-check to keep you going, or you’re just now becoming aware of historical racial disparities in health outcomes and access in the U.S., it’s worth five minutes of your time.
Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity: Policy Prescriptions for Better Behavioral Healthcare Access
Produced during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, this video from the Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity foretells the current surge in behavioral health needs we’re seeing in the aftermath of the pandemic. More importantly, it offers actionable policy prescriptions for better access to behavioral health services, like better utilization of behavioral telehealth and stronger support networks for burned-out providers.
Impower: Exploring Behavioral Telehealth’s Potential
On the subject of behavioral telehealth, this video of a talk by Amy-Erin Blakely, vice president of behavioral health for Impower, showcases the vast potential of remote mental health care.
Blakely’s talk focuses specifically on child behavioral health. It’s no secret that the pandemic has been a challenging time for young people thrust into unfamiliar remote learning situations and isolated from the often fragile social networks that sustain them. Parents and guardians, too, face their own mental health burdens these days, sapping their capacity to support vulnerable children.
The need is urgent, but concerted policy action has been lacking. Blakely and her colleague Amanda Dawson, director of child wellbeing for Impower, outline a road map for a telehealth-driven solution to increase access to behavioral healthcare and manage the long transition back to post-pandemic normalcy.
Working Toward More Equitable Access to Behavioral Healthcare
Each of these videos underlines the present-day gaps in access to behavioral healthcare and outlines potential solutions to help fill those gaps.
None is unrealistic about the challenge. All acknowledge that it will take years of work by countless stakeholders to sustainably increase equity in behavioral healthcare delivery.
Yet the fact that so many smart, driven people are working on this problem should be heartening for the millions of Americans who need better behavioral healthcare than they’re currently receiving. Better access to behavioral healthcare improves quality of life for those who seek it and peace of mind for their loved ones. And that’s a truly priceless outcome.