To Improve Behavioral Health in Missouri, Think Beyond Healthcare

(BPT) - According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults (46.6 million) in the United States experience mental illness in a given year. Further, approximately one in 25 adults (11.2 million) experience a serious mental illness that significantly interferes with one or more major life activities.

Mental health disorders are one of the most common causes of disability. While anyone can develop a mental health disorder, those at lower income levels are at greater risk. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2.5 million adults living below the poverty line have a serious mental illness. This problem is particularly acute in Missouri, which is ranked 40th when it comes to access to mental healthcare, according to Mental Health America.

Unfortunately, Missouri suffers from an issue of supply and demand when it comes to the treatment of mental illness, especially in rural areas, and funding cuts are straining the system. In fact, according to the University of Southern California’s Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics, The Missouri Department of Health spends 56% less per person on community-based mental health programs, which falls far below the annual national average of 72%.

While proper treatment is important for anyone battling a mental illness, it can be especially critical for individuals at low incomes, many of whom receive coverage from Medicaid. According to Missouri Care, one of the leading providers of Medicaid in Missouri, the state needs to address Missourians’ needs holistically, which includes both clinical care and assistance with social support services.

Based on its experience, Missouri Care indicates there are three keys to improving mental health, especially for those on Medicaid:

  • Improve Mental Health Programs: Many people neglect to seek out mental health treatment when they need it most. There are numerous programs in communities across the state that can help these individuals maintain proper mental health treatment. The behavioral health team at Missouri Care, for example, works one-on-one with members to coordinate medical care and help provide additional support services. As a result of this approach — combined with matching the member to the most appropriate treatment — Missouri Care has seen a 25% decrease in outpatient visits, a 13% decrease in non-emergency ER visits and a 5% decrease in ER visits for residents suffering from mental illness.
  • Address the Stigma: There has always been a stigma around mental health. In response to the stigma, people dealing with mental health challenges are often embarrassed to seek proactively the treatment they need. Education, communication and compassion are key to breaking down this stigma.
  • Go Beyond Healthcare: By building a bridge between healthcare and social services, Missouri can begin to address the non-clinical social services that prevent people from getting mental health treatment. Missouri Care helps members connect with important social support services such as rides to doctors’ appointments, housing assistance and discharge planning, among others.

To help connect residents with local support services, Missouri Care offers a Community Connections Help Line. For help, call 866-775-2192, where someone is available Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (local time).

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