Giving Compass' Take:

• Octavio N. Martinez, Jr. explores the behavioral health equity issues already present in the U.S. health system and the challenges that come with addressing these problems in the wake of a global pandemic.   

• Martinez does mention that philanthropy is taking steps to help address behavioral health equity. He adds that partnerships and collaboration during this time will be necessary. 

• Read about these behavioral health interventions to improve healthcare. 

COVID-19 is unmasking our shortcomings, gaps, disinvestments, disparities, inequities, and discrimination towards each other. Because COVID-19 is now so pervasive, this unmasking is playing out in multiple arenas simultaneously. One of the major ones is behavioral health. In truth, the United States of America was not doing all that well in taking care of our behavioral health issues before COVID-19.

For example, according to Health Affairs, one in every eight visits to an emergency department is due to individuals with mental health and substance use disorders (Laderman et al. 2018); and according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, untreated mental illness costs the United States approximately $300 billion annually in lost productivity (Sperling 2018). Even more disturbing are the statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which showed a more than 30 percent increase in suicide rates in 25 states since 1999 (CDC 2018).

As concerning as these statistics and trends are, equally alarming are the behavioral health disparities and inequities created by decades of bias, discrimination, and racism that permeates our health care system.

However, philanthropy has not remained silent or uncaring. For example, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been building a “Culture of Health,” The Colorado Health Foundation works at the community level to create health equity, and The Rapides Foundation is working to reduce health disparities for Central Louisiana. But now it is even more imperative that health philanthropy doubles down on eliminating behavioral health disparities and achieving health equity for marginalized, historically excluded communities. Not only for the reasons I have already mentioned, but also because the crisis at hand is affecting the entire country’s mental health. The need for mental health and substance use services will only continue to grow fueled by COVID-19. The U.S. economy has taken a huge hit and the impact will be felt for years to come.

Read the full article about behavioral health equity by Octavio N. Martinez, Jr at Grantmakers In Health.