Mental health crisis: We must speak with one powerful voice in 2020
BY FORMER REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D-R.I.), OPINION CONTRIBUTOR
The systemic change we need to address our nation’s mental health crisis truly will not happen unless families, advocates, providers, and policymakers unite in support of a roadmap for change — and demand action from elected leaders.
For many, the start of a new year represents a clean slate — a chance to take stock of what truly matters in life and course correct in search of a better path.
Human resiliency is a powerful thing. Mental health and addiction professionals often say it’s why they do what they do. People can recover from their challenges and go on to lead productive, meaningful lives.
But resiliency alone is not enough for the one in six Californians who have a mental health condition or the 2.7 million Californians who meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. Access to quality, evidence-based care, and community support are equally as important.
However, as Californians know all too well, such care and support are not always easy to come by, often leading to tragic outcomes. Overdose deaths from opioids and methamphetamines continue to devastate families across the state. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for Californians age 18-34.
Jails and prisons serve as de facto “treatment centers” for some, and homelessness has hit epidemic proportions, primarily due to a combination of untreated mental health and substance use disorders and California’s affordable housing crisis.
Many who seek care using private health insurance face enormous roadblocks. A recent report by the actuarial firm Milliman found huge out-of-network utilization disparities between mental health/addiction and medical/surgical care for inpatient facilities, outpatient facilities, and office visits.
This means insured individuals are paying more out-of-pocket for mental health/addiction care than they are for medical care — mostly because health plans continue to reimburse mental health/addiction providers far less than their primary care/specialist counterparts, causing those providers to stop accepting insurance altogether.
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