COVID-19 and Behavioral Health

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The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new complications for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. 

In a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) in the Spring of 2020, nearly half (45 percent) of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus. As the pandemic wears on, it’s likely the mental health burden will increase as measures taken to slow the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, business and school closures, and shelter-in-place orders, lead to greater isolation and potential financial distress. Though necessary to prevent loss of life due to COVID-19, these public health measures expose many people to experiencing situations that are linked to poor mental health outcomes, such as isolation and job loss. Additionally, feelings of anxiety are increasingly common, as people are fearful of themselves or loved ones falling ill and are uncertain of the repercussions of the pandemic.

Although recognition that behavioral health is a crucial component of whole-person care and positive health outcomes, it remains underfunded and inaccessible for many. Many mental health experts are concerned that the country is on the verge of another healthcare crisis as isolation, fear and desperation around financial concerns generate widespread psychological trauma.

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In fact, only a small portion of the trillions of dollars Congress passed in emergency coronavirus funding is allocated for mental health. Therapists have struggled to bring their practices online and to reach vulnerable groups because of restrictions on licensing and reimbursement. Community behavioral health centers—which treat some of the most vulnerable populations—are struggling to stay financially solvent and have begun closing programs.

Over the past few years, The Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC) has worked with providers to prioritize the integration of behavioral health through funding and capacity building in several locations, both urban and rural.

One of its most recent efforts is the Ravenswood Family Health Center, providing comprehensive healthcare for Silicon Valley’s underserved population. Funding assistance from PCDC enabled the center to incorporate 13 behavioral health counseling rooms into the design of the center.

A six-year partnership between PCDC and Community Health and Wellness Center of Greater Torrington (CHWC), located in a rural area of Connecticut, enabled the facility to launch an opioid treatment program that included Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), which combines medication with counseling and behavioral therapies to prevent opioid overdose.

A $15.2 million-dollar project enabled Unity Care Northwest (UCNW), which serves patients in Whatcom County, Washington, to add behavioral health services to its primary care offerings. The area has high rates of prescription drug and heroin use.

As the pandemic and its fall-out continues to affect millions of Americans, access to behavioral healthcare is more important than ever. A portfolio of PCDC financial products is available to assist community-based health providers across the country to improve existing facilities or build new spaces that make it possible to expand and integrate their behavioral health services. Complementing the financial investment is the capacity building assistance, led by PCDC experts, who provide to assist practices working to incorporate behavioral health into their practices.

Capacity Building

PCDC’s Performance Improvement team works with primary care providers and practices across the United States to improve health outcomes for patients and communities.

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