May is Mental Health Month, marking a 31-day stretch where all Americans are called upon to become advocates– working to raise awareness and break down stigmas about the millions of U.S. citizens living with mental illness each year.
By all accounts, this month of advocacy is more pertinent than ever, as recent evidence shows that suicide rates continue to rise, shocking providers with a 24% spike overall and a 30% increase in suicide rates among middle-aged women over the past 15 years, all while lawmakers and providers struggle over how to best treat mental health patients in a cost-efficient and humane manner.
For those in the healthcare industry, we must all do our part to re-examine how we identify and treat at-risk patients who often go months between check-ups and in-person visits. Case in point: This past week, four members of the House Committee on Ways and Means sent a letter to the CMS urging the Agency to better collect and release more detailed data on Medicare beneficiaries’ mental health issues.
According to the House Committee, “More in-depth data is ‘essential’ for improving healthcare delivery and informing policymakers about the mental health needs of the senior population.” Further, almost 26% of Medicare beneficiaries experience some form of mental disorder each year, and nearly 37% of all disabled beneficiaries have a severe mental disorder– showing that the need for this data is very real. In an age when healthcare spending continues to rise, we can no longer afford to ignore the single largest driver of healthcare utilization – untreated mental illness.
At Wellbox, we recognize the value of early interventions and the importance of providing support to individuals who often feel as if they are alone and without help. In our experience with providing telehealth calls as part of Medicare’s CCM program, we have not only seen the tangible benefits of data-collection on care quality but also how genuinely thrilled Medicare patients are when someone expresses interest in their well-being.
To demonstrate our commitment to these ideals, each of our Wellbox Care Team members is trained in behavioral and motivational interviewing techniques, ensuring that patients feel they are being taken care of, and further, that someone is actively interested in improving their care. In addition to these efforts we employ year-round, each of the patients we speak to this month will receive a telephonic depression screening as part of our ongoing efforts to raise awareness and erase the stigma of seeking treatment for these very real medical conditions.
As the House letter indicates, we’re thrilled that awareness is increasing over the use of different tools to improve the mental health of older Americans, and can’t wait to help providers accrue this essential data and ultimately, improve the lives of our valued patients.
We’re going to do our best to further this idea, not only over the next 31 days but months and years into the future as well– we hope everyone else will do the same.