Disparities in Unmet Need for Mental Health Services

Date: 
Mon, 01/28/13

A National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) study indicates that population access to mental health services has declined in the past decade, partly due to limited health insurance coverage and the rising number of uninsured Americans. Study results show that the unmet need for health services increased from 4.3 million in 1997 to 7.2 million in 2011, the bulk of which is concentrated in the working age population (18-64). Rates of unmet need for mental health services were almost five times higher for the uninsured than for the privately insured. In addition, unmet need for both mental health services and primary care is not only higher for uninsured working-age adults but also for adults with a psychiatric diagnosis and multiple functional impairments, women, unmarried individuals, and those with low incomes. It is anticipated that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008 will reduce the number of uninsured persons and improve access to mental health services in years to come. However, additional research is needed to examine how these policy initiatives will affect local access issues, particularly in rural areas where there are shortages in mental health providers. Moreover, provider capacity to meet the expected increase in people seeking mental health services or substance abuse treatment is also an urgent concern (Roll et al., 2013).

See the related journal article: http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/data/Journals/PSS/926133/80.pdf