topics In The News Pandemic Fallout: Highlighting the Need for Better Mental Healthcare

Pandemic Fallout: Highlighting the Need for Better Mental Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the dire need for broad and affordable access to mental healthcare and resources. The isolation of the last few months, fear of illness, record unemployment and countless other stressors in 2020 are contributing to increased anxiety, depression, overdoses and suicides across the country.

Recent statistics from Dallas-based Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) show that COVID-19 unemployment will cause an increase in suicide and drug overdoses, especially if treatment availability and resources remain at pre-pandemic levels. For every five-percentage point increase in unemployment, projections show there could be an additional 4,000 suicides (300 in Texas) and 5,000 drug overdose deaths across the country.

A solution to curb these unnecessary deaths would be universal access to collaborative care behavioral health model and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid users. MMHPI’s modeling shows that if Texas had universal access to collaborative care to treat major depression that the number of suicide deaths could reduce between 725 and 1,100 per year and nationally, 14,500 deaths could be prevented.

The collaborative care model is a care team led by a primary care physician and includes mental health care managers, psychiatrists, and other mental health specialists which implements a measurement-guided tailored care plan that relies on accountability and evidence-based care. Studies have shown this model improves outcomes, controls costs and helps patients living in both rural and urban settings.

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