Mental health has been top of mind for many since the pandemic. But increased awareness is not enough for patients. Finding and accessing the right care can be challenging, especially when providers aren’t always equipped to provide the specific care that patients need.
So explains “Meeting Mental Health Patients Where They Are,” a new policy paper from the Alliance for Patient Access. The paper is co-authored by three clinician experts.
Mental health is frequently associated with traditional psychiatric care, but that’s not the only place patients may seek care. The paper highlights three different environments where patients often seek mental health care, exploring the challenges associated with each and underscoring how good policy can make a difference.
- Traditional Psychiatric Care
Many patients turn to traditional psychiatric care when they are seeking support for their mental health, explains Jeremy Schreiber, MSN, PMHNP-BC. But while this is the standard route for many patients, overcoming stigma and working through utilization management barriers can be difficult.
- Emergency Departments
Not everyone receives timely mental health care, and some patients’ conditions may worsen to the point where they need emergency care. But Leslie Zun, MD, MBA, explains that these environments are typically structured to respond to physical emergencies. Emergency care providers may lack the specialized training needed to respond to mental health emergencies. And ER environments may also be loud or overwhelming, which can exacerbate a patient’s current condition.
- Primary Care
Many patients turn to their trusted primary care provider for help with their mental health. In fact, four out of 10 visits for mental health are to a primary care provider. Robert McCarron, DO, explains that, while many patients visit their primary care provider for mental health care, these providers’ education doesn’t often entail much psychiatric training.
Mental Health Care that Puts Patients First
Providers can’t always anticipate what a mental health patient needs, but good policies can ensure providers have the right tools and education to support patients as they receive care. Greater funding for educational programs, increased access to telemedicine services and stronger mental health care networks are all steps policymakers can take to improve mental health care opportunities.
Learn more in “Meeting Mental Health Patients Where They Are.”