Behavioral Healthcare: Brought to attention in 2016

Behavioral healthcare: Brought to attention in 2016

Hunter Frint

Behavioral healthcare is one of the newer forms of healthcare in the industry today, but the need for it is growing drastically and 2016 might be the year it is no longer on the backburner.MH Facts photo

Trine Tsouderos, a director at PwC’s Health Research Institute wrote about the 10 top healthcare trends that are shaping the industry this year. Behavioral healthcare received its own section in Tsouderos’ list, coming in at number six. Behavioral health is getting recognition from PwC, other organizations such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and the observation of May as Mental Health Month, but this is a key issue that demands more attention.

According to PwC’s Health Research Institute and NAMI one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year. That is approximately 44 million adults in one country who suffer with varying mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. According to NAMI, the total number of American adults who have been diagnosed with these diseases is approximately 66.5 million.

Mental illness not only affects adults. There are similar figures when it comes to children in the United States. One in five children is also affected by serious mental illness. And even though 50 percent of cases begin by age 14, according to findings by NAMI, it takes an average of 10 years between the first signs of symptoms and actual intervention or treatment.

MH2 FactsSociety continually invents techniques and enacts preventions to protect its children, ranging from school lockdown drills to child labor laws, but one of the least discussed issues is child and adolescent behavioral health. Many are advocating for more awareness as mental health issues can lead to suicide, the second most common cause of death in youth aged 10-24.

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Affecting both adults and children is the way behavioral health in the criminal justice system is handled. In general, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report, approximately 20 percent of state prisoners and 21 percent of local jail prisoners have a recent history of a mental health condition.

This number rises in youth who are in juvenile justice systems. According to the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, 70 percent of youth in these systems have at least one mental health condition. With a rate that high it can be questioned whether these youths are in the right system. Maybe mental health rehabilitation is a more prevalent option.

All of the above facts and statistics are behind the increase in attention that has been put on behavioral health in recent years. It is an issue that affects so many humans and that the healthcare industry has come to take measures against. Until the 18th century, mental health was completely surrounded by negative stigmas. The world is still trying to gain an understanding of mental illnesses today.

Mental Health Awareness Month in May is one way that behavioral health has been highlighted for recognition. Organizations, such as NAMI, organize mental health walks and ways for communities to get involved in raising awareness. This year Mental Health America is providing mental health toolkits, creating blogs and a hashtag (#mentalillnessfeelslike) for those affected by mental illnesses to share their life experiences.

Another action being taken to promote not only awareness, but treatment of mental illness, includes expansion of insurance for behavioral healthcare. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act access to behavioral healthcare has become an option for many Americans. There has been an increase in demand for behavioral healthcare providers because more people are able to afford the care they need.

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Though the demand is high, throughout the past few years there has been a noticeable shortage of physicians in the field of psychiatry and mental health. Jim Stone, president of the Medicus Firm said in a recent statement that psychiatry placement was not even in the top ten providers for placement in his firm last year, but that has changed dramatically.

“Our fourth most-frequently placed provider this year is psychiatrists,” Stone said in a recently released statement.

For over 20 years, Tim Leigh, president of Select Practice Opportunity, a physician recruiting firm, has seen several trends in the increasing need for psychiatrists. Leigh, along with his team of recruiters, specializes in placing psychiatrists with hospitals in need throughout the country.

“Although our population has grown steadily over the past 20 years and people’s access to healthcare has increased dramatically, the population of psychiatrists has been stagnant at best and in the past two years, entered a phase of decline,” Leigh said.

There are approximately 30,000 practicing psychiatrists in the United States, and the average age of those practicing is 57 years old. Residency classes are turning out only 800 to 900 graduates that will practice and according to Leigh there are some 5,000 jobs posted on job boards for psychiatric positions in the United States.

“The shortage isn’t waiting,” Leigh said. “It’s here.”

For those more financially concerned, according to PwC, mental illness conditions cost businesses in the United States more than $440 billion each year. Many of these illnesses are treatable with access to the proper healthcare.

With increasing need for behavioral healthcare and treatment in the United States comes the need for a reformation in the mental healthcare industry. Awareness and access to healthcare are helping this need. Whether the concern is humanitarian or financial, this issue racking the nation is long due its recognition.

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