According to a recent report by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, Utah is ranked last out of all 50 states on mental health measures. Most Utahns do not receive proper care and treatment for their mental health, in part due to shortage of mental health providers, lack of insurance coverage, and the negative stigma surrounding it. In turn, Utah has high rates of untreated depression and continually increasing suicide rates.
Utah has made attempts to address the shortage of providers by increasing funding for mental health programs. For example, H.B. 174(signed earlier this year) is funding four new psychiatry resident positions per year over the next four years at the University of Utah. The funding will help improve access to mental health services across the state.
What is mental health parity?
Insurance coverage can be improved by more strictly following the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA). This is a federal law that states insurance providers must cover mental health and substance use disorders the same way they cover physical health.
Many other states have been strengthening their parity laws by following three recommended steps:
- Define mental health to include all conditions
- Expand mental health insurance coverage to be the same as physical health
- Monitor parity through annual compliance reports.
Parity will improve access to care and help end the stigma around mental health that prevents people from seeking services.
The Kem C. Gardner report stated one way to end the stigma is to promote the co-location of physical and mental health services. If care for both is available in the same location, people would be more inclined to seek services since stigmas associated with being parked in front of a mental health facility can be avoided.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Contact your state legislators! Talk to them about the importance of improving mental health services through increased providers and the improvement of parity laws. These changes will have positive effects on the safety and quality of life of our state!