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A Focus on Behavioral Health

June 02, 2022

The pandemic has accelerated the need for more behavioral health providers and created barriers for patients seeking care, according to a new report from the American Hospital Association (AHA).

The report comes as behavioral health leaders, lawmakers, policy experts, and others look to address a growing behavioral health crisis. It also highlights advances in care that have emerged via telehealth.

“The pandemic exacerbated the need for behavioral health services while individuals with existing disorders faced additional barriers to care,” the report noted. “However, the pandemic also inspired innovation, including escalated tele-behavioral health services and other digital solutions.” 

Among the key insights in the report:

  • Access to care:  Throughout the pandemic, in-person, outpatient professional behavioral health visits have declined by as much as 75 percent for people with commercial insurance, 56 percent for Medicare beneficiaries, and 25 percent for Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • Pediatric behavioral health:  Children covered via Medicaid or CHIP reported a 34 percent reduction mental health services from March 2020 through October 2020.
  • COVID-19 effects:  In a CDC survey, more than 40 percent of respondents reported at least one adverse behavioral condition related to the pandemic.
  • Telehealth’s growth:  Prior to the pandemic, less than 1 percent of behavioral health visits occurred via telehealth. Early during the pandemic, telehealth usage jumped to 75 percent of behavioral health visits during April and May of 2020 for those with commercial insurance.
  • Quotable:  “This prevalence of behavioral health issues and their interactions with—and impact on—physical health pressures caregivers,” the report says. “This demand is exacerbated by an ongoing national shortage of behavioral health providers, due in part to inadequate reimbursement rates.”

The report, as well as the AHA’s behavioral health policy recommendations, is available to review online. In addition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is holding a virtual conference this month focused on youth mental health.

HAP continues to advocate for resources and support to bolster Pennsylvania’s behavioral health system. Learn more about our behavioral health advocacy.



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