The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of anguish for many Americans. Lockdowns and social distancing can make people feel isolated and lonely, increasing stress and anxiety. More than 460,000 Americans have now died from the disease. As we reported previously on this blog, the number of people reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression has tripled since the start of the pandemic.
The need for mental health services has dramatically increased since last year but the availability of treatment has not. “While the pandemic has helped normalize conversations about mental health, the root crisis remains: There are not enough trained professionals to treat everyone in need,” wrote Rebecca Renner on Nationalgeographic.com in December.
“Across much of rural America, demand has long outpaced the availability of these services, leading to what is known as mental healthcare deserts. In some areas, the closest provider might be hours away, a problem for people living in poverty when every gallon of gas counts.”
“Although the pandemic boosted virtual telemedicine and efforts to normalize the conversation around seeking help for mental health concerns, this progress has not addressed the root crisis: There just are not enough mental healthcare professionals to treat everyone in need,” wrote Renner.
Nineteen percent of adults—that’s over 47 million Americans—experienced diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorders before COVID-19. Data assessments take into account several factors, including substance use disorder, serious thoughts of suicide, lack of insurance, and inability to afford to see a doctor.
Utah, unfortunately, is one of the worst “mental healthcare deserts.” The Beehive State ranks last for adult mental healthcare access, according to the Mental Health America’s 2021 report.
The seven measures that make up the adult ranking in the report include:
- Adults with Any Mental Illness (AMI)
- Adults with Substance Use Disorder in the Past Year
- Adults with Serious Thoughts of Suicide
- Adults with AMI who Did Not Receive Treatment
- Adults with AMI Reporting Unmet Need
- Adults with AMI who are Uninsured
- Adults with Cognitive Disability who Could Not See a Doctor Due to Costs
Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the top 13 have lower prevalence of mental illness and higher rates of access to care for adults. States that are ranked 39-51 indicate that adults have higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care. Utah ranks 51st in this category.
In the prevalence category, Utah places 47th with a ranking of 1–13 indicating a lower prevalence of mental health and substance use issues compared to states that ranked 39–51.
Utah fares better in the access-to-care ranking (32nd) which indicates how much access to mental health care exists within a state. “The access measures include access to insurance, access to treatment, quality and cost of insurance, access to special education, and mental health workforce availability. A high Access Ranking (1-13) indicates that a state provides relatively more access to insurance and mental health treatment,” per the report.
“Eastern Utah has no long-term psychiatric units, which offer in-patient mental health treatment. Patients who need this level of care must go to Provo or Salt Lake City, each about 130 miles away,” reported Renner. “Such a distance is difficult on patients because it may also keep loved ones from visiting, overtax family caregivers, and separate patients in crisis from their essential support systems.”
Even before COVID-19, US health experts registered a rise in mental illness and suicidal thoughts in adults. According to data from multiple federal agencies, the number of adults with unmet mental illness has persistently grown since 2011.
In the fall of 2020, Utah experienced a coronavirus surge that forced hospitals to ration care, putting mental health providers on red alert. The Utah state mental health crisis hotline saw a significant increase in calls for help while therapists were reporting an increase in demand for their services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social distancing in a time of economic uncertainty has been tough. Americans who are in distress, many have clinically significant conditions and lack access to treatment options.
To meet the rising need for mental health services in Utah, Recovery Ways recently created a specialized mental health program for those struggling with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mood disorders. Recovery Ways’ Mental Health Primary program offers profound and comprehensive long-term support. A substance use disorder (SUD) is not required for admission to this program.
If you, a family member, or a friend are struggling with addiction and/or mental health, Recovery Ways wants to help. We are dually licensed to treat mental health disorders and addiction. Our admissions coordinators can recommend a plan of action, suggest an interventionist, or speak with your loved one. For more information, please call us at (888) 988-5217.