Finding affordable mental-health care getting easier with reforms, new programs

This story first appeared in the April 30, 2022 edition of MLive Kalamazoo. It is part of the Mental Wellness Project, a solutions-oriented journalism initiative covering regional mental health issues, created by the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative. SWMJC is a group of 13 regional organizations, including Southwest Michigan's Second Wave, dedicated to strengthening local journalism. For more info visit swmichjournalism.com.

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It’s estimated that about 20% of Michigan adults experience a diagnosable mental-health condition in a given year.

Yet more than half will go untreated.

A major barrier?

Cost, experts say.

Mental-health therapy can result in hundreds or thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses, even for people with insurance, depending on deductibles and co-pays. That issue can be compounded by insurance plans with limited in-network options for mental-health providers.

Affordability is the No. 1 deterrent to seeking mental-health treatment, more than stigma or people not knowing where or how to obtain services, according to a 2018 federal survey of 5,000 Americans.

The good news: Access to affordable mental-health care has improved in recent years.

One reason is the Healthy Michigan program, the Medicaid expansion created under the Affordable Care Act that has cut the number of uninsured Michiganders in half.

Another are reforms resulting from the COVID pandemic, such as the huge growth of telehealth services, expansion of school-based counseling programs and the pressure for employers to improve benefits related to behavioral health.

A third factor and the newest change, which has major implications for Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties: Their community mental health agencies are part of a federal/state pilot project to greatly expand publicly subsidized mental-health services.

Read the full story here.