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Accessible mental health care is desperately needed in the US

Accessible mental health care is desperately needed in the US

Accessible mental health care is desperately needed in the US
March 08
12:00 2019

Luckily, the UNT campus and the DFW area have many mental health resources available to students. However, some of these resources are out of reach for many individuals due to their socioeconomic statuses. Mental health care should not be a privilege reserved only for middle- and upper-class populations, but a right for all Americans.

Without insurance, a single, one-hour therapy session can cost anywhere from $50-$240, according to a resource website for depression and therapy. At this rate, the average American cannot afford long-term counseling, especially if they are uninsured. This is a huge issue because treating mental health is a long process, unlike going to the doctor for a physical ailment, which may be almost immediately remedied with an antibiotic or a cast.

While affordable health care is a major obstacle faced by the U.S. population, there are at least free clinics and other resources for uninsured Americans needing treatment for physical ailments. I think mental health care is so underfunded in this country because the government does not see it as a pressing issue.

In October 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, a piece of legislation that aimed to fund mental health facilities for Americans needing long-term care. However, only half of the proposed facilities were ever built and those were only funded short-term. The legislation provided $329 million to build mental health facilities, but after this money was largely exhausted, funding was left to the states. Later, President Ronald Reagan converted the remaining funding into a block grant for states, which ultimately meant the death of accessible, affordable mental health services.

The attitude of the Reagan administration has largely prevailed, with many states slashing their mental health care budgets by as much as 39 percent, according to CBS News. President Trump’s budget for the 2019 fiscal year reduces funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) by about $600 million. Additionally, it discontinues funding for the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment program and drastically reduces funding for Medicare and Medicaid, which are currently the largest financial contributors to of behavioral health services in the country.

These budget cuts could be detrimental to the 44 million American adults who suffer from a mental health condition, especially those who are uninsured. While the overall number of uninsured Americans needing mental health care has declined, one in five adults (9 million people) reports a need for affordable mental health services. According to Mental Health America, the rate of youth with mental health conditions is rising, and an alarming 62 percent of youth with Major Depressive Episode (MDE) diagnoses did not receive treatment.

While UNT provides low-cost mental health services for students, these services are in high demand and some students are unable to get in to see a counselor. Due to the high volume of students needing mental health services, many are referred to outside resources, which may be more expensive than on-campus services. This resource shortage needs to be addressed, as mental health conditions can negatively impact students’ health and grades.

Mental health is a serious issue that should be confronted with the same urgency as physical health because untreated mental illness may have damaging repercussions. While depression or anxiety may not be as visible as a broken bone, the effects are just as real. In order for society to take mental health more seriously, the government must first recognize the importance of accessible mental health services and take steps to repair the broken mental health care system of the United States.

Featured Illustration: Shannon Quillman

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Abigail Hurtt

Abigail Hurtt

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