HAP's Latest News

A Look at Behavioral Health Challenges across U.S.

November 01, 2022

The U.S. must take action to improve access to behavioral health care and bring treatment within reach of millions of Americans.

A new research brief from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and Research and the Action Institute focuses on the need to address the country’s growing behavioral health crisis. The brief highlights the urgency to address professional shortages and insurance gaps, while supporting new models that can deliver care where it is needed.

“With a growing share of the population reporting mental health and substance use issues, policymakers need to prioritize expanding access, coverage, and affordability of care,” the research brief notes.

Among the key takeaways from the research brief: 

  • A worsening crisis:  From 2008–2019, the number of adults with a mental illness increased nearly 30 percent (51.5 million adults). The number of high school students reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness increased 41 percent from 2009–2019.
  • Professional shortages:  During 2021, nearly 130 million people lived in one of the 5,930 federally designated mental health care health professional shortage areas.
  • Growth of telehealth:  Telehealth use for mental health and substance use services has sustained its pandemic trend, accounting for 36 percent of visits from March 2021 through August 2021.
  • Coordinating care:  The report establishes the importance of connecting physical and mental health care. About a third of people who reported having a mental illness and an unmet need reported that they did not receive care because they did not know where to go for treatment.
  • Quotable:  “There are short- and long-term opportunities to create policies that prioritize growing the workforce, expanding insurance coverage for patients, increasing reimbursement rates for providers, and enforcing state and national parity laws,” the report notes.

HAP continues to advocate for policies and legislation to support behavioral health across the commonwealth. Last week, HAP President and CEO Andy Carter sent a letter to Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation outlining the state’s behavioral health needs.

“With more Pennsylvanians grappling with anxiety, depression, suicide, substance abuse, and other mental health challenges heightened by the pandemic, now is the time to take aggressive steps to address the crisis,” Carter said. “This includes expanding the behavioral health workforce, increasing access to services, and bolstering the triage and treatment capacity of ED throughout the commonwealth. We support these policies to meet Pennsylvanians’ behavioral health needs.”

The letter, as well as HAP’s behavioral health priorities, is available to review online.

Read the AAMC research brief online.