The article“Colleges lag on mental health care” reported troubling delays in access to mental health services for college students across the nation. Sadly, the wait times and resulting impact are indicative of a larger problem in access to these services. The Association for Behavioral Healthcare represents more than 80 organizations in Massachusetts, many of which struggle to provide timely access to outpatient mental health and addiction treatment services. The facts reported in the article ring all too true to our members.
Last year, 60 percent of our members reported a wait time of at least one month for a child to access a routine assessment with a prescriber, and 58 percent of member organizations reported a similar wait time for adults seeking a routine assessment. Even more troubling, 68 percent of providers reported reducing access to outpatient services in the previous three years to mitigate financial losses resulting from low reimbursement rates.
These wait times are the result of historic neglect of outpatient services by private and public insurers. Unfortunately, access will not improve until insurers acknowledge the importance of these services and invest in them.