Improving Access to Mental Health Treatment

Mental health conditions have risen dramatically over the past decade. When your friend or loved one needs treatment, SafeRide wants to be part of the solution ensuring they have access to that life-sustaining care.

The Covid-19 pandemic might be mostly behind us, but sadly the opioid and mental health crises are far from over. In fact, a contrast of 2019 vs. 2022 shows a sobering uptick in substance use disorder (SUD) and mental illnesses.

I lost a friend to addiction. Many of us know, or are related to, someone who has experienced a substance use disorder (SUD) or some other mental health concern. Millions of people are struggling and seeking treatment for these issues. Our mission at SafeRide Health, from the very beginning, has been to ensure that everyone can access the care they need.

What are some of reasons that chronic mental health conditions are on the rise?  

1. Other chronic conditions are increasing, and people who have chronic conditions are more likely to experience mental health conditions as well.  

A study published in JAMA Cardiology found that the percentage of U.S. adults with multiple chronic conditions—heart disease, chronic kidney disease, or Type 2 diabetes—grew from 5.3% in 1999 to 8% in 2020. More than 1 in 4 people said they had at least one condition and 1 in 10 had multiple chronic conditions. An aging population and non-health-related social factors are a few reasons why chronic conditions are on the rise.  

People who have chronic illnesses are more likely to develop a mental health condition. For example, people with diabetes are 2-3 times more likely to develop depression. These conditions often go untreated, and “research also shows that people with mental health conditions are less likely to seek medical care. There is a need to more tightly align primary care and mental health services within our health care system,” wrote Alvin McLean, PhD, dean of the JFK School of Psychology and Social Sciences at National University in The Hill. “Patients are worried that if they disclose their mental health concerns to doctors, they will not have their symptoms taken seriously when they are seeking care for non-mental health concerns.” Enabling regular treatment for people’s minds as well as their bodies is crucial to keep them as healthy as possible.  

2. The Covid-19 pandemic caused unprecedented stress and uncertainty.  

Between April 2020 and February 2023, the percentage of people who reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder grew to nearly 40% before dropping down to 32%, according to a KFF report. Covid-19 upended the home and school lives of children all over the country, and a recent KFF/CNN survey found that about half of parents (47%) felt the pandemic had a negative impact on their child’s mental health. In fact, in 2021 the American Academy of Pediatrics and other children and youth health interest groups issued a National State of Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health.  

Substance use disorder also rose during the pandemic, and that rise has tragically coincided with a growth in the illicit market for fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be incredibly potent. Deaths due to drug overdose reached the highest number on record in 2021: 106,600, with overdose deaths increasing 50% during the pandemic.  

The good news is that there have been multiple efforts to increase access to treatment since the pandemic began. These have included the use of telehealth for behavioral health appointments, expanded mental health services in schools, better access to opioid-use disorder treatment, and the launch of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.  

Ensuring Access to Consistent Mental Health Treatment

Whether it’s in-person or via telehealth—or, sometimes most effectively, a combination of the two—regular treatment is often crucial when it comes to treating and managing mental illness and substance use disorders. Treatment for SUDs can include medication, outpatient counseling, inpatient rehab, and behavioral healthcare with care providers trained to help people with their mental health concerns.  

Not everyone has easy access to regular treatment or care. Sometimes they don’t have adequate childcare, or they can’t miss work. If transportation is a barrier, that’s where we come in. SafeRide provides non-emergency medical transportation for Medicare Advantage and managed Medicaid health plan members. They can schedule rides for themselves through our member portal, and if they don’t have mobility issues, there’s a good chance they'll ride with Uber or Lyft. Members also get the benefit of customer service help from SafeRide or their health plan and access to a transportation network that is setting a new standard in the industry.  

Our mission is to transform health outcomes for America’s most vulnerable by ensuring access to life-sustaining care. That includes people who are seeking treatment for a mental illness or substance abuse disorder. We are part of the solution that can help them get better.  

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