SAMHSA Behavioral Health Barometer Illuminating

The US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) recently released the first edition of its Behavioral Health Barometer: United States, the first of a series of State and national reports which it states will provide a “snapshot of the state of behavioral health in the nation.” The Barometer is a mound of data collection sponsored by SAMHSA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

While it seems that our national attention is drawn to issues of mental health only when there is a tragedy stemming from untreated mental illness, the Barometer provides an opportunity to step back and think about what we, as a country, prioritize and rethink our reactionary mode of responding to the crises.

The Barometer reports that nationally, 62.9% of US adults with Severe Mental Illness, or SMI (an estimated 6.0 million individuals) received treatment in 2012. We are still missing nearly 40% of adults with SMI!!! In Ohio, about 765, 000 adults with ANY mental illness (not just severe)  — or about 44.9% of adults with any mental illness received mental health treatment or counseling within the prior year being surveyed. This is higher than the national average for adults with any mental illness (No comparison was available for SMI).

High points of the reports show that the number of people getting outpatient treatment through Medicare has increased and the number of people getting appropriate treatment for heroin addiction has skyrocketed.

Despite concerted efforts to expand treatment, barriers still exist. A review of the literature reveal the most common barriers to treatment include cost, stigma, poor access (89.3 million Americans live in federally-designated Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas, compared to 55.3 million Americans living in similarly-designated primary-care shortage areas, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics in a Washington Post report), wait times for treatment, and disparity/lack of coverage (although the Affordable Care Act is supposed to be changing this).

So what can be done locally:

  • Support funding for other services such as human service levies, homelessness services, children’s services, mental health levies  in order to maximize leverage of revenues.
  •  Language is powerful. Avoid derogatory terms which demean those with mental illness.
  • Send emails to council members and legislators supporting Medicaid expansion, human services funding, homeless services, etc., when these issues come up.

To view the SAMHSA Behavioral Health Barometer: United States, click here .

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Shared by: Russell Winters, Social Worker & Executive Director of Tender Mercies