Monday, May 18, 2020

Researchers Recommend Strategies to Mitigate Risks Due to COVID-19 Economic Impact

The journals of APA Publishing are receiving numerous submissions on aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. To get information about findings to the field faster, Psychiatric News is posting summaries of these submissions soon after acceptance.

Among the many ways COVID-19 has adversely impacted mental health is via the economic recession caused by this pandemic. Using data gleamed from previous economic crises, a team of specialists has suggested several health policy actions that may mitigate some of the impact of this recession. These recommendations were posted in a Psychiatric Services article in press.

“The immediate need is to expand suicide and domestic violence response systems, to shore up providers facing financial distress in the near term, and to limit state and local budget service cuts when the COVID-19 crisis wanes,” wrote Alison Cuellar, Ph.D., of George Mason University and colleagues. “It is important to extend this support to communities that are hit economically by closures and other policies, independent of the prevalence of COVID-19.”

Cuellar and colleagues recommended several policy solutions to help meet likely demands for behavioral health care:

  • Increase investment in suicide prevention. The authors commended Congress for allocating $50 million for suicide prevention programs to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but noted more funding is likely needed.
  • Extend expansion of telehealth services. The authors lauded the regulatory changes that have expanded telehealth access, but noted such revised regulations will likely be needed “well beyond the initial impacts of the recession.” They also emphasized the importance of parity in reimbursement for telehealth services for mental health and substance use disorders, as well as continued investment in telecommunication programs for health care professionals.
  • Ensure health insurance coverage for people who lose coverage through their employer. “Insurance coverage is critical for individuals to access mental health and substance use disorder treatment,” they wrote. The Affordable Care Act—implemented after the last major recession—provides access to insurance through marketplaces and Medicaid expansion, but the authors pointed out that 14 states still had not elected to expand Medicaid, which could increase barriers to behavioral health treatment.
  • Develop and support systems that connect patients to social services such as food and housing. Such systems can improve information flow between patients and services.   

(Image: iStock/shapecharge)

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