Americans are not getting the mental health assistance they need during the worst pandemic of the last century, according to the inaugural State of the Nation’s Mental Health report released Monday by Anthem, the largest for-profit managed health care company in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
That is especially true for the youngest, oldest and most impoverished – the very groups often hardest hit by the sickness, death and economic uncertainty brought on by Covid-19, the report said.
“Rates of anxiety and depression reported by patients went up and yet the ability to access mental health services actually went down,” said Dr. Shantanu Agrawal, Anthem’s chief health officer.
The Anthem publication follows a report released Friday by the US Government Accountability Office exploring the country’s ability to access mental and behavioral health services during the pandemic.
The GAO reported that 68% of nearly 3,400 community clinics that serve low-income people with mental health and substance abuse conditions had to cancel, reschedule or turn away patients over the past three months due to lack of staff or funds.
“Our community health clinics were already underfunded before the pandemic, so if you then have any reduction in revenue that has an immediate effect,” said Chuck Ingoglia, the president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, which represents many of the nation’s community clinics.
“Covid has disproportionately impacted low-income individuals, and these are the same individuals that are served by our member agencies,” Ingoglia said. “Yet at the same time it has been harder for them to continue to access their necessary mental health or substance abuse treatment.”
‘A perfect storm for mental health needs’
For over a year now, the pandemic has shaken the United States to its core, delivering one devastating blow after another and cracking the very foundations of our lives – mentally, physically, emotionally.