The Path Forward
Stigma, diagnosis, and awareness are among the several reasons that mental health providers may not be located where mental health need is greatest. Only 43% of people with anxiety are actually being treated for it. In turn, millions of Americans suffer in school, lose their jobs, or lose their homes, thereby exacerbating already growing inequalities. The less we are able to help those in need, the further behind those families will fall.
🧱 Re-orient Funding for Mental Health Block Grants — The Biden Administration is currently providing $825 million in Community Mental Health Services Block Grant funding to states and territories. These block grants allow states to determine how best to use their funds to combat growing mental health catastrophes. While funding has largely tracked population size (i.e. states get $0.35-$0.45 per person), funding could instead be calculated based on current need. Tennessee and Indiana roughly have the same populations and get roughly the same amount of funding, but Tennessee residents struggle with mental health at a rate 10% higher. In addition, the block grants could come with stronger accountability mechanisms, so America doesn’t see the same pitfalls that it felt in the mid-1980s.
🧠 Equip Schools with Better Mental Health Services — Half of all chronic mental illnesses begin by the age of 14, and yet we spend years before and after doing nothing to help people in need. We can improve interventions in schools to help young people before tremendous harm may emerge. Both Michigan and Arkansas provide strong examples here. Michigan developed a school mental health Medicaid service standard that provides psychological testing, counseling, case management, and social work services under the Individuals with Disabilities and Education Act, and provides a definition of the service and professional credentials for service provision. Arkansas developed a state policy and procedures manual, as well as procedures to approve school-based mental health programs within Arkansas public school districts. We cannot add this as another job for teachers, we need to help schools get the services they need to succeed.