Near-Term Policy Solutions to Bolster Youth Mental Health Workforce through Digital Technology
In partnership with Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech and with funding from The Commonwealth Fund, the Meadows Institute conducted research with key leaders across the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, Medicaid and Medicaid Managed…
In partnership with Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech and with funding from The Commonwealth Fund, the Meadows Institute conducted research with key leaders across the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, Medicaid and Medicaid Managed Care organizations, academia, and industry to identify opportunities for the federal government to identify near-term opportunities to leverage existing safe and effective evidence-informed digital solutions to bolster the workforce and better address the youth mental health crisis.
Additional background and recommendations, including a recording of a webinar where the findings were released, are below.
Mental illness among America’s youth is at a crisis point and our overstretched workforce has been unable to meet the demands of this growing public health crisis. While initiatives to increase the number of trained mental health providers and better deploy them to make more efficient and effective use of their time are critical to addressing these issues, these efforts will unfold over decades and a comprehensive approach is needed to better meet the needs of youth and address the mental health workforce crisis. Digital mental health technology (DMHT) – technology used to better detect, monitor, and treat mental health challenges – also has an important role to play within that comprehensive approach.
While investments in the development of DMHT have led to a proliferation of products and offerings, a myriad of obstacles slow and even prevent scaling of DMHT to fill gaps in traditional workforce capacity. There is confusion among consumers and providers about which tools are effective and safe, as well as which can be trusted to protect privacy and sensitive data. Additionally, without reimbursement through public insurance, DMHT is only available to people with commercial coverage or who can otherwise pay for them. With nearly 40% of children in the US receiving their behavioral healthcare through Medicaid, this means DMHT is out of reach for many youth. It also means that child-serving health systems cannot responsibly scale solutions, as large numbers of the people they serve are not eligible.
Specific policy opportunities to accelerate the adoption of safe and effective DMHT to bolster existing provider capacity and improve quality care for the current youth mental health crisis in the near term include the following:
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should issue an informational bulletin to clarify existing avenues to support the adoption of DMHT;
U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Office of National Coordinator for Health Information (ONC),and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) should partner to define more precise categories of DMHTs and clarify regulatory pathways for each to facilitate their safety, dissemination, and appropriate use; and
ONC should develop data security, interoperability, and privacy standards to ensure their safe and optimal use.