Letter: Do more to meet need for mental health services
To the Editor:
Mental health professionals are even harder to come by in rural areas. Many are forced to drive great distances to find care. Some find it easier and more cost effective to seek mental health services from their primary care physician instead of a mental health professional. As a result primary care physician's patient lists are growing and the mentally ill population may not be receiving the best treatment to fit their needs.
This brings me to another continuous problem for the mentally ill population is the cost of mental health services. I personally have found in my experience that much of the mentally ill population is on Medicare or Medicaid. This means that much of the mentally ill population are low-income and therefore struggle to pay for adequate services. Since the mentally ill population depends on this care we need to make sure more services are accessible and covered.
You might be asking what can be done to overcome these issues? One way to do this is by advocating for legislation that supports lifting some reimbursement restrictions to make it easier for mental health professionals to get reimbursed for services. This will allow many mental health professionals to be covered and therefore will start accepting Medicare and/or Medicaid members. This will create many more mental health professionals, including more in rural areas.
One federal bill that addresses these concerns is the Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2013. More needs to be addressed at the state levels as well and with your help we can make a difference.
Tonia Swiggum is a licensed social worker.