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Supporting Youth Mental Health: Let’s Seize The Day

Youth mental health, already a widespread concern before the pandemic began, is especially vulnerable now. Youth experience unique challenges in processing traumatic events, and the pandemic places those with mental health conditions at particular risk. School closures and social distancing leave young people isolated and with less structure during a crucial window in their social and role development, while depriving many in underrepresented communities of crucial school-based mental health services. In one survey, these factors have led to 83% of youth reporting that the pandemic has hurt their mental health.

For serious mental health issues such as the psychosis I experienced, a similar care model has emerged that shows evidence to improve life quality and reduce symptoms faster than standard care. Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC) marshals a clinical and social services team to treat and guide each young patient back to health. The team partners with them and their family to help them build the stability and skills to succeed in school, relationships, and work.

Three reforms can bring such services to more young people in need now, and employers can play a role. The first is full insurance and Medicaid payment coverage for all aspects of these care models. Thanks to a payment strategy recently published by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, this is demonstrably feasible, and employers can insist with their insurers that they use such a strategy to cover this care under the Federal parity laws. The second and third reforms, the expansion of telehealth coverage and increased research funding to improve care efficiency, are being pursued with the U.S. Congress by a nonprofit coalition of which my organization is part. This coalition aims to speak with a common voice for best effect nationally—and corporations can do the same. When nonprofits, industry, institutions, and government align, as we are starting to see, change will happen.

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