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A Multi-Pronged Approach to Tackling Mental Illness

The nation’s mental health crisis is more acute than ever, evidenced by the number of calls to the federal government’s suicide and crisis help line. The service received 52% more calls this August than in August 2021.

On one hand, it’s a positive sign that so many people are seeking help. On the other hand, the spike in crisis calls is a signal the country has an enormous opportunity to recognize signs and connect people to care earlier.

New Screening Recommendations

Screening is an effective way to start the process, and the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recently took a positive step in recommending that primary care providers screen adults age 19 to 64 for anxiety. Delays in diagnosis for anxiety are reported to be so severe that 20 years can pass before treatment is initiated.

In an effort to head off such delays in diagnosis among children, the Preventive Service Task Force recommended in April that children and young adults age 8 to 18 be screened.

Protecting Access to Treatment

If screening is a critical first step, improving access to medication is a necessary second focus. And there is movement on this front, notably in California, where legislation proposes to:

  • Limit prior authorization requirements. The law would prohibit prior authorization requirements for one year after an initial prescription for an antipsychotic medication is approved.  
  • Increase prescription supplies. The law would allow certain patients to get a 90-day supply of their medication, as opposed to a 30-day supply.
  • Permit early medication refills. The law would allow a pharmacist to dispense an early refill for lost or stolen antipsychotic medication and for an early refill of prescriptions with less than seven days of remaining therapy.

Each of these provisions would help patients improve medication adherence or reduce insurer-imposed barriers.

Time for Awareness and Action

This Mental Illness Awareness Week, October 2-8, provides an occasion to talk about mental health conditions, which helps to raise awareness, reduce stigma and motivate action.

It’s also an opportune time to acknowledge efforts to support people with mental illness and to speak out against those barriers that make an already difficult range of conditions even more trying for patients, their families and the broader community.