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  • Greg Smith

A Look at Behavioral Health Trends in 2021

Julio Avael knows that since the pandemic began in 2020 and as the United States begins to open, there has been an increased demand across America for help with behavioral health issues. During the lockdowns of COVID-19, many Americans experienced psychological stress and committed suicide or thought about it. Anxiety and depression were widespread during the uncertainty of 2020 and into 2021.

A survey by the National Council for Behavioral Health in September 2020 found that 52% of behavioral health organizations reported an increased demand for their services. The lockdowns and fear surrounding COVID-19 led to loneliness, unemployment, loss of family and friends with an inability to mourn publicly and uncertainty about the state of the world. All of these factors contributed to a rising need for behavioral health services.

Unfortunately, this is a trend that will continue through 2021, as the world begins to return to some semblance of normalcy. This will continue to strain behavioral health providers, as the numbers of providers cannot keep pace with amounts of patients seeking services.

Trending towards More Funding and Investment in Mental Health Services

In late 2020, then President Trump signed into law a 2.3 trillion-dollar stimulus bill which included increased funding for mental health services. President Biden is expected to continue to add to federal funding. He has long been a supporter of initiatives to benefit the mental health industry.

President Biden has also supported the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and helped ensure it was included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) during his terms as Vice President. He has also supported including substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment as essential benefits for Americans under the ACA.

An Industry Already in Crisis Prior to the Pandemic

Prior to the pandemic, the mental health industry was already showing signs of strain. In September 2020, nearly 40% of behavioral health provider organizations told the National Council that they were ready to close their doors. Despite the increased need for services, many providers continue to have decreasing revenues for a variety of reasons.

It is expensive to implement social distancing and afford all of the personal protection equipment. Many providers stayed closed during COVID-19 or those that could provide services had to invest in telehealth technology. Also, many lost staff during the pandemic.

Remaining open and being responsive to the increased need of Americans during these stressful economic and social times will be a challenge for many behavioral health providers. This is a trend that will continue through 2021.

Unfortunately, mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, drug or alcohol addiction, and severe mental health issues such as schizophrenia and bipolar disease will continue to have devastating impacts on those suffering from them as well as their families.

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