Access to Treatment

On 9/17 we posted a link to a recent Field poll on people’s understanding of what behavioral health treatment benefits are available to them under their insurance benefits, their knowledge of treatment resources and their likelihood of seeking treatment. I would encourage you to read the whole report.

I want to highlight some of the findings and the ramifications for the future.

There are a number of findings that are quite positive including:

  • Approximately 80% believe that treatment is helpful
  • 87% support having their primary care doctor ask them about their mental health and substance use
  • 79% want their primary care doctor to be informed about their behavioral health treatment
  • 84% cite their primary care doctor or mental health/substance use professional as preference for their treatment

Then there are some findings that raise concerns and certainly challenges for us:

  • Only 40% know that their insurance provider is required to offer behavioral health treatment benefits
  • 20% would not seek help regardless of their insurance coverage
  • 40% lack knowledge of who to call and where they can access treatment
  • 24% did not think it would help and/or their were afraid/embarrassed to seek help.

The findings did have some variations among different racial/ethnic groups and if English was not the primary language. However, regardless of these differences all of the findings had relevance to all groups.

One of the more interesting findings was that although the large majority believe that treatment was helpful, 25% would not seek treatment. If we were to ask this group if they think treatment would be effective if they had a broken body part, the answer would be 100% and then if we asked would they seek treatment if needed I would expect the answer to also be 100%. A couple of things come to mind why the difference. Stigma is certainly a major factor. We are still not at a place where all people regard a mental health and/or substance use challenge with the same level of comfort and understanding as a physical health problem. I also think the general public does not really know and therefore understand what today’s treatments are for behavioral health conditions. And lastly but certainly as important is knowing how to access care and for providers/systems to make access for clients as “customer friendly” as possible.

We must continue our work to combat stigma, we must highlight that treatment works, we must take the “mystery” out of what treatment is, we must enhance our peer and family support capacity, and we must maintain our strong advocacy voice.