Study: Mental health care lacking in some counties

Study: Mental health care lacking in some counties

Study: Mental health care lacking in some counties

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by USA TODAY

KING5.com

Posted on March 26, 2014 at 4:26 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 26 at 4:26 PM

 WASHINGTON — Some of the nation's counties have only one mental health provider per 55,989 people, a study released Wednesday shows. The shortage complicates efforts to fight stigma and get help for those most segregated by mental health issues.

 
In other counties, there's one therapist for every 72 people, according to the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps study, which included mental health for the first time this year.
 
"We really want to draw attention to mental health care and the need for it," said Abbey Cofsky, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
 
Those who live in the West and Northeast are most likely to have better access to a provider.
 
The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover mental health as they would physical health, but insurance does little good if no one exists to provide the care.
 
"Insurance is only the first step," Cofsky said. "We need to have providers in place to treat."
 
Even in counties with ample mental health care, the challenge is finding a way to use access to improve overall mental health.
 
Officials in Cambridge, Mass., noticed an increase in behavioral problems among preschoolers who were kicked out of school, said Ellen Semonoff, assistant city manager for human services.
 
"You don't think of suspensions as something that happens to 3-year-olds," Semonoff said. "But your chances of successfully navigating through elementary school if you haven't navigated through preschool aren't good."
 
Community leaders contracted with a mental health provider to help teachers manage children with behavior problems. The mental health workers also assisted day care providers.
 
 
"Often they're doing it all by themselves, and they're often serving low-income children and children who, for one reason or another, may be struggling," Semonoff said.
 
The city's police chief noticed the program's success and developed a system to improve the safety net for young people who show antisocial behavior, Semonoff said.
 
As a result, she said, arrest rates have dropped for Cambridge youths, and teachers report being less stressed.
 
 
"There are families that certainly are not interested, but for the most part, when we've identified young people who are struggling, families are well aware of those struggles and are interested in getting support," Semonoff said. "Ultimately, if you have significant unmet mental health needs, you can't have thriving children, thriving families and thriving neighborhoods."

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