The Mental Health Parity Collaborative is a partnership between The Carter Center’s Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism, The Center for Public Integrity, and news outlets in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, and the District of Columbia. More than 40 reporters and editors from 15 news outlets are working to produce data- and solutions-driven stories that examine access to mental health care in their states and why mental health parity hasn’t been achieved.
In 1996, the breakthrough Mental Health Parity Act was passed — the first legislation to require that certain insurance providers cover mental health benefits the same, or on parity, with medical benefits.
By the numbers
- More than 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
- More than half of U.S. adults with a mental illness — 27 million people — don’t receive treatment—a number that has been on the rise since 2011
- Roughly 1 in 10 people who struggle with mental illnesses have no health insurance
- 60 percent of children experiencing major depression are not receiving care
Yet even after the Mental Health Equity and Substance Abuse Parity Act passed in 2008, expanding the reach of the 1996 legislation, along with the Affordable Care Act in 2010, parity between mental health care and medical health care is far from achieved. Millions of people struggle to find, receive, and afford appropriate mental health treatment and, as a result, are forced to pay out-of-network costs or not receive care at all. Lack of parity is rampant throughout the U.S.: the 2018 State Parity Implementation Survey gave 43 states a grade of D or F on mental health parity.
Though stigma still shrouds awareness of mental health issues, they are pervasive and have serious implications, putting people at high risk for suicide and crisis. This situation has been exacerbated further by the Covid-19 pandemic, with new data indicating increasing rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, and national shortages of counselors and therapists.
The new crisis line is expected to send call volume soaring, and that means states like Illinois have a tough hill to climb. (From Side Effects Public Media)
- Listen to a discussion about the new mental health crisis line on NPR’s Morning Edition.
The fallout of Hurricane Michael in 2018 and the chaos caused by the pandemic shed light on a problem that, until recently, has only been discussed in hushed tones behind doors: the deteriorating mental health of Georgia’s farming community. (From GPB News)
Medical detox, inpatient rehabilitation and ongoing counseling are often not paid by insurance, even when patients have coverage. Many substance abuse counselors don’t even accept insurance. (From GPB News)
There’s a bill making its way through the state legislature that aims to create new avenues for people living with a serious mental illness to get life-saving treatment. (From LAist and KPCC)
Between February and July of 2020, one in three birthing parents experienced postpartum depression, up from one in eight before the pandemic. (From LAist and KPCC)
The state ranks at or near the bottom on several key indicators of youth well-being, such as the percentage of kids with untreated depression. (From Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)
Texas leaders have targeted trans youth, their families and gender-affirming care practices for months. (From KERA)
Jails are the state’s de facto mental health facilities. (From Georgia Public Broadcasting)
Living Rooms offer an alternative to the emergency room and jails, which often become the default providers of emergency mental health care. (From Side Effects Public Media)
- Listen to the author’s report on WBUR: Here & Now.
The law governs assisted outpatient treatment, or AOT, a court-ordered treatment plan. Standards to qualify for AOT are lower than those needed for an involuntary 302 hospitalization. (From PublicSource)
“We’re putting our kids in these incubators of pressure,” said licensed psychologist Josh Spitalnick of Anxiety Specialists of Atlanta. “(It’s) not surprising that we’re seeing more families in a clinic like ours.” (From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
It’s a change from previous tactics when people suffering from mental crises were often arrested, a strategy that only exacerbated their issues and resulted in jails filling up. (From Georgia Public Broadcasting)
The unprecedented access to telehealth was appreciated by many patients and doctors, like the patients receiving physical therapy without leaving home and doctors seeing more patients in a day and managing those more effectively. (From PublicSource)
During the pandemic, many Chicago organizations began rethinking how to provide mental health help as the virus swept into the city. (From Chicago Tribune)
The COVID-19 pandemic worsened stress, anxiety and depression for young people—especially young girls. (From KERA)
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