Pandemic Pushes U.S. Mental Health Counseling Beyond Capacity

By Consumers for Quality Care, on March 30, 2022

Pandemic Pushes U.S. Mental Health Counseling Beyond Capacity

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic began, it was difficult for people to find mental health counseling in much of the United States. Now, after two years of pandemic-induced grief and stress, many people seeking help are confronting a system at or beyond capacity—and the White House has taken notice—according to The Washington Post.

Insurance coverage and training slots for new psychiatrists continues to lag far behind the demand. In his State of the Union address earlier this month, President Biden proposed a large increase in mental health providers. In a fact sheet, the White House noted that more than one third of Americans live in designated mental health professional shortage areas.

“We must dramatically expand the supply, diversity, and cultural competency of our mental health and substance use disorder workforce—from psychiatrists to psychologists, peers to paraprofessionals—and increase both opportunity and incentive for them to practice in areas of the highest need,” the White House said.

D. Giovanni Scott, a private practitioner in Washington, DC, noted that people gave up insurance and access to employee assistance programs when they lost or left jobs during the pandemic. To accommodate demand, she said, she offers a few people the option of biweekly therapy sessions when it is appropriate, and she tries to retain some insurance-only clients despite the low reimbursement rate. She keeps her waiting list short, unwilling to offer unreasonable hope to people seeking an opening.

CQC urges lawmakers to make mental health care a priority and work with the administration to ensure all Americans can access the care they need.