Policy makers are calling the mental health crisis the “next wave” of COVID-19 repercussions, with the majority of adults (53%) reporting that the pandemic is taking a toll on their mental health (Kaiser Family Foundation). Specifically, 4 in 10 adults reported symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorder. This is up from 1 in 10 adults, numbers reported from the first half of 2019(1). In addition to anxiety and depression, adults have expressed challenges in the areas of sleeping (36%), eating (32%), increases in alcohol and substance use (12%) and chronic conditions that have worsened (12%) due to the stress and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic (2).
When the need for mental health care increases, intuitively the access to care should rise as well. However, with the pandemic limitations, many adults have found themselves unable to access quality and affordable mental health care. Thousands of children are not getting the appropriate screening for mental and emotional support due to virtual schooling. Adults are left sorting through online databases staring blankly at profiles of therapists they’ve never met, all while determining, “Is this a person with whom I can share my deepest fears?”
Quality mental health care needs to be two things: accessible and affordable. The moments between reaching out for help and attaining it provide critical intersection points that will determine an individual’s future direction in their personal mental health care. As compiled by Mental Health America, there are numerous measures that determine how easily an individual can navigate that intersection point. These measures determine access to care and include: insurance coverage, access to treatment, quality and cost of insurance, access to special education, and workforce availability (3). States were subsequently ranked by Mental Health America’s data ranking guidelines (3.5). A high Access Ranking (1-13) indicates that a state provides relatively more access to insurance and mental health treatment. A low Access Ranking indicates it’s extremely difficult to access quality and affordable mental health care in that state.
Out of 51 potential rankings, Georgia ranks 51st. Currently in the state of Georgia, 64% of adults with AMI (any mental illness) are untreated and 70.4% of youth with a MDE (major depressive episode) did not receive any mental health services in 2021. The need is outgrowing the resources exponentially, including workforce accessibility. The current Georgia state rate of mental health care workforce is 730:1.
The Georgia Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission recognized this staggering need and convened to conduct a comprehensive review of the behavioral health care system in Georgia. They presented recommendations to expand behavioral health care provider’s visibility and create a statewide data set that all providers must register for in order to raise awareness and continuity of care for individuals and families seeking services. However, all but one of their recommendations were overshadowed by a legislative session focused on election reform.
This commission and their corresponding suggestions indicate a trend toward prioritizing access to mental health care, a need Clear Path is poised to meet. Clear Path’s unique model utilizes existing mental health care services by organizing them and providing specialized assessment to direct each individual and family to the appropriate service provider.
“Georgia does not necessarily need to build more facilities or create more “beds” – or spaces for mentally ill children,” former Georgia Public Heath Commissioner and former CDC director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald said. “Rather, the state should use its current resources more effectively,” Fitzgerald told Georgia Health news in May 2021. (4). The purpose of Clear Path’s online assessment and referral system is to provide just that, a clear link from client need to service provision through effective utilization of existing therapists and treatment facilities. Increasing access begins with the development of a Clear Pathway, from inquiry to assessment to referral to treatment for all individuals in Georgia seeking mental health care.
1 (link: https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/adults-reporting-symptoms-of-anxiety-or-depressive-disorder-during-covid-19-pandemic/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D)
3.5 The 9 measures that make up the Access Ranking include:
- Adults with AMI who Did Not Receive Treatment
- Adults with AMI Reporting Unmet Need
- Adults with AMI who are Uninsured
- Adults with Cognitive Disability who Could Not See a Doctor Due to Costs
- Youth with MDE who Did Not Receive Mental Health Services
- Youth with Severe MDE who Received Some Consistent Treatment
- Children with Private Insurance that Did Not Cover Mental or Emotional Problems
- Students Identified with Emotional Disturbance for an Individualized Education Program
- Mental Health Workforce Availability