RELEASE: COVID-19 Is Exacerbating Structural Inequities in America’s Mental Health Care System

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a new report on the inadequacy of America’s mental health care system and how the coronavirus crisis threatens to exacerbate its inequities. The analysis looks at how preexisting barriers to mental health care access; the impact of social isolation and economic uncertainty; and disruption of services present urgent challenges policymakers must reckon with as they work to ensure people with mental health disorders can get the care they need.

Due predominantly to Americans’ inability to afford treatment, prior to the pandemic, nearly 12 million people had mental health needs that were going unaddressed, and roughly 60 percent of people with mental illnesses were going untreated. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Mental Health Household Pulse Survey, clinically significant symptoms of depression and anxiety have more than tripled since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with people of color disproportionately suffering. This surge in need comes in the midst of an economic crisis that has cost tens of millions of jobs—stripping millions of their health care coverage just when they need it most—and as the nation continues to grapple with the brutal killings of Black people at the hands of law enforcement.

The report also includes policy recommendations to:

  • Expand access to health care coverage via enhanced enrollment opportunities, expanding Medicaid, providing emergency health coverage for the unemployed, and expanding presumptive eligibility for Medicaid.
  • Provide immediate funding to key providers and in-need communities.
  • Improve funding for peer support services and other community-based services.
  • Invest in social determinants of mental health.

Please click here to read: “Mental Health Care Was Severely Inequitable, Then Came the Coronavirus Crisis” by Azza Altiraifi and Nicole Rapfogel

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