2022 Behavioral Health Recap Part 1: Demand Up, Supply Constrained, Big Funding Increases Approved
Last year was a notable one for behavioral health. At the highest level, demand for care continued to increase far faster than the supply of those qualified to offer care, which contributed to more than one in four people reporting unmet behavioral health needs. The good news was the federal government approved significant funding increases for a host of behavioral health-related programs and initiatives to improve the situation.
Demand: Need for Behavioral Health Services Continues to Grow
According to data compiled from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates, the percentage of Americans under the age of 50 who reported having mental health issues has increased significantly since 2014, with one in three young adults aged 18-25 reported having mental health issues in 2020, the most recent year surveyed.
Not surprisingly, a recent study by health care analytics firm Trilliant Health titled “2022 Trends Shaping the Health Economy” reported a continued increase in demand for Behavioral Health services. Between Q1 2019 and Q2 2022, behavioral health visits were up roughly 17%. In comparison, with COVID-19-related visits omitted, all other healthcare encounters were down by 6.2% over the same period.
Supply: Amid Ongoing Worker Shortage, Providers Get Creative to Recruit and Retain
At the same time that demand continued to increase, the supply of those qualified to provide behavioral health services remained constrained in 2022. Turnover rates at behavioral health facilities averaged 31.3% in 2022, according to research by Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service (HCS) quoted on OPEN MINDs. This is part of a larger national labor shortage, one that has hit health care in general particularly hard.
Predictions for the future aren’t promising. Unless the dynamics change, within a few years the U.S. will experience a shortage of between 14,280 and 31,109 psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, based on estimates from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
To help alleviate the problem, behavioral health providers are employing a variety of options to recruit and retain employees, from creative recruiting to using “para-professionals” to do as much of the work as possible that doesn’t require a clinician.
The Result: More Than 1 in 4 Report Having Unmet Needs
A recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) entitled “Mental Health Parity at a Crossroads” noted that 32% of adults in the United States reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder as of February 2022. Among these adults, 27% reported having unmet mental health care needs.
Other data indicate the biggest reason cited for having unmet needs was not knowing where to obtain care (25%), followed by the cost of care (23%).
The Good News: Big Federal Funding Increases
The good news is the U.S. Congress approved significant funding increases for behavioral health in 2022. According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, highlights include:
- $4.2 billion (increase of $203 million) to combat the opioid epidemic.
- $2.34 billion (increase of $120.9 million) for the National Institute of Mental Health.
- $1.01 billion (increase of $150 million) for mental health block grants.
- $512 million for SAMHSA suicide prevention activities, including $439.6 million for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
- $385 million (increase of $70 million) for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grants.
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