Modica, Online Technical Writing Professor and To The Members of Congress
Currently Looking to Reform Healthcare
Kouakou, Student at the University of Colorado Denver
Project- Addressing America’s Mental Health Crisis
health services and facilities should be made more accessible to a majority of
the country’s population.
In recent years, the topic of mental
health has been gaining interest. Diagnoses for mental illnesses including
anxiety and major depression are at an all time high and people are being more
open about the state of their mental health than ever before. However,
availability to receive treatment for these illnesses is still limited. A
majority of people with a diagnosed mental illness do not receive treatment due
to a range of factors including financial barriers, lack of access to proper
treatment, a lack of insurance or insurance that will not cover treatment and a
shortage of mental health care providers to name a few.
For a long-term solution to this problem, legislation
should be proposed to lawmakers to provide funding for more facilities to be
built and widespread education about the importance of mental health to reduce
the negative connotation associated with the issue. Other issues that should be
addressed include the way insurance companies cover mental health services and
ways to encourage interest in becoming a mental health care provider to ensure
that enough providers are available to provide adequate treatment and services.
To understand the severity of the mental
health problem we are facing in this country, it is important to understand the
prevalence of these illnesses and the availability of resources. According to
the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the National
Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), roughly 1 in 5 (18-20%) adults in this
country have experienced some kind of mental health complication and 1 in 25 (4%)
have a diagnosed “serious” mental illness. Disorders that fall under the
serious category include, but are not limited to, schizophrenia, bipolar
disorders, major depressive disorders, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive
disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the eating disorders
anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois, 2017). It
is also known that many people that are currently homeless or in prison have
had a history of mental illness (Mental Health by the Numbers).
the availability of resources, it should be mentioned that healthcare reform
and expansion has increased access to mental health care assistance due to the
number of uninsured individuals greatly decreasing. Nevertheless, a majority of
people that need treatment(s) still do not receive it. There are many more
barriers to receiving necessary treatment besides lack of insurance.
was collected from a variety of reputable sources to provide more detailed
facts and statistics regarding the problem.
Statistics as of 2017:
Mental Health America (MHA) has recently
released their annual comprehensive report “The State of Mental Health in
America.” The report lists the key findings and statistics regarding the
prevalence of mental illness, availability of resources and any changes worthy
of being noted that have occurred since the last report was released. This
particular report, written by MHA’s Vice President of policy and programs
Theresa Nguyen and colleagues, was released in November 2017 and contains some
of the most up-to-date information about mental health care in the country.
According to the MHA report, over 43
million Americans are currently suffering from a mental illness. This number is
consistent with the 1 in 5, or 18-20% of adults mentioned in the introduction
of the report. Of this 43 million, roughly half also have a substance abuse
problem and 9.6 million (22.3%) experience suicidal ideation. Only 44% of
people who are diagnosed with a mental illness receive necessary treatment and
20% of these people still report having unfulfilled needs. Regarding youths
that are experiencing mental health troubles, almost 8% had no access to the
services they needed through their private insurance (Nguyen et al). 70% of
youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental condition (“Mental Health by
the Numbers”). In addition, the rates of severe depression amongst youths have
increased 2.3%, from 5.9% of youths affected to 8.3%, in the past five years
(Nguyen et al).
Barriers to receiving treatment
People with a lower socioeconomic status
are less likely to have access to adequate mental health care services but are
often the people that need the most assistance. Services tend to be localized
near large cities, leaving people in rural areas with little to no access to
proper treatment. (Saxena et al). Besides
obvious financial barriers, the social stigma of mental illnesses also stops
people from receiving the treatment they may need. A general lack of
understanding about mental illness leads people with them to be the victims of
discrimination and prejudice. People that have mental illnesses are known to
have trouble receiving and maintaining good jobs, quality housing, and quality
healthcare. Some of the most common, but untrue, beliefs about people with
mental illnesses claim they are people who should be feared and kept away from
others, irresponsible and should have their decisions made for them, or
childlike and need to be cared for by others (Corrigan and Watson).
There are also racial disparities when it
comes to receiving treatment. White Americans are the only racial group of
people where a majority of those diagnosed with a mental illness receive
treatment. They are also the only racial group that has seen a significant
increase in mental health treatment received since the Affordable Care Act was
implemented. For African-Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans,
the percentage of people that received mental health care either increased but
not significantly or did not increase at all. While The Affordable Care Act did
greatly decrease the number of uninsured Americans, it failed to close the
racial care gap (Luthra).
The overall lack of health providers that
work in mental health care is one of the most obvious problems regarding this
particular situation. There are not enough health professionals to provide
treatment for all the people that need it, especially in low-income and rural
areas. There is a high turnover rate for mental health care providers because
of a lack of social support and low compensation for their work. This leads to
other negative effects such as many providers not taking insurance and making
their patients pay for care out of pocket. This lack of providers combined with
the fact that insurance may not cover treatment leaves sufferers of mental
illnesses less likely to receive treatment (Access to Care Data).
Corrigan, Patrick W, and Amy C Watson. “Understanding the impact
of stigma on people with mental illness.” World Psychiatry, Masson
Italy, Feb. 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1489832/.
Luthra, Shefali. “Factors Beyond Coverage Limit Mental Health
Care Access.” Kaiser Health News, 7 June 2016,
“Mental Health by the Numbers.” NAMI: National Alliance
on Mental Illness, www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers.
“Mental Health in America – Access to Care
Data.” Mental Health America, 17 Oct. 2016,
“Mental Health Myths and Facts.” Mental Health Myths and
Facts | MentalHealth.Gov, Department of Health and Human Services, 14 Mar.
Saxena, Shekhar, et al. “Resources for mental health: scarcity,
inequity, and inefficiency.” The Lancet, Elsevier, 4 Sept. 2007,
The Affordable Care Act and the
additional expansion of Medicare and Medicaid have been a great help for
increasing mental health care access because the amount of uninsured Americans
dropped to historic lows. However, with the potential of the ACA being repealed
and financial cuts being made to Medicare and Medicaid, it is uncertain whether
the progress made regarding access to care will be reversed.
To be included in the new healthcare
With the promise of a new healthcare reform
plan, it is important that several issues are addressed. The new healthcare
plan should ensure that mental health care services are still covered by
insurance companies so they are relatively affordable for most Americans.
Pre-existing conditions, including mental illnesses, should not be a factor in
determining whether or not a person is given equal access to health insurance.
Insurance companies should also not be allowed to give people a limit on how
much they are allowed to spend a year before they lose coverage.
Government funding, federal or state,
should be provided for facilities to be built or updated in areas where access
to mental health care is limited such as rural and lower income areas.
Facilities should be occasionally evaluated to reduce discrimination based on
race, sexuality, and/or gender identity and to ensure they are giving patients
Funding should also be provided for
educational programs that not only attempt to reduce the widely believed
misconceptions about people that have mental illnesses but also encourage
people to consider careers as mental health providers. This serves two
purposes- reducing the social stigma associated with being mentally ill and
addressing the shortage of mental health care providers. This would, in turn,
lead to early intervention and immediate treatment for mental illness sufferers
because they would not feel as ashamed to reach out and receive treatment and
there would actually be providers to provide that treatment.
due to a multitude of changes being made to the national budget and deficit, it
is almost impossible to come up with a specific budget for a plan like this.
There is currently no solidified budget plan to this reformed healthcare plan
that is being proposed and even that would not be a good estimate because it
plans on greatly cutting funding to healthcare and risks leaving millions of
Americans uninsured. The plan as a whole, including more than just the health care
portion, would likely cost over 100 billion dollars in taxpayer money to fund a
year. This estimate, which is likely too low, comes from the fact that the
Affordable Care Act cost taxpayers 110 billion dollars in 2016 (Close). The
plan will be expensive regardless of mental health reform but Americans should
be able to see that their money is making a difference and this kind of
government funded program would absolutely make a difference in the lives of
tens of millions of people.
plan will show the millions of Americans currently suffering from a mental
illness that mental health is finally being taken as seriously as physical
health and get them the treatment they deserve by providing them with adequate
resources. Please approve this plan or even consider parts of. Revision is
always an option. For inquiries regarding any part of this recommendation,
please send all emails to [email protected] Thank you in advance
for your consideration. I look forward to hearing your decision.