3 Takeaways from Outcome Summer Series Session 1
During the first session of its inaugural virtual Outcomes Summer Series, Express Scripts experts and guest speakers broadcasting from all over the country engaged in an insightful and wide-ranging discussion on mental health, from the latest tools and strategies to support mental and behavioral health, to a raw discussion of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic, racism, and social injustice on our nation’s mental well-being.
A standout moment from the broadcast was a panel discussion about the need for mental health care between Kelcey Blair, Express Scripts Vice President of Clinical solutions, Dr. Julia Joseph-Di Caprio, UCare Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, and Dr. Glen Stettin, Express Scripts Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer. Here are three key takeaways.
COVID-19 has impacted America’s mental health
As highlighted in Express Scripts’ latest research report – America’s State of Mind, between February 16 and March 15, prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications increased 34.1 percent. Prescriptions also increased for antidepressants (18.6 percent) and anti-insomnia drugs (14.8 percent). These trends accelerated an already existing increase in the number of people taking antidepressants from 2015 through 2019. What this means for plan sponsor is a need to evolve how they’re providing mental health treatment to their members, like better triage services and better access to appropriate treatment and therapies.
We need to change how we recognize and diagnose mental illnesses
Mental illness is on a spectrum – mild depression, for example, to major depression. For clinicians, it’s important to recognize symptoms that manifest themselves along that spectrum and match them to the appropriate treatment – anywhere between simple reassurance to mental health therapy to medication, when appropriate. Additionally, there needs to be better education across the health care industry as to the disparities between generations and ethnicities. For example, adolescents and children won’t present the same way or with the same symptoms as adults.
Millennials have forced many employers to rethink the way they operate
Because younger generations are more open to the diagnosis and treatment of mental health, as well as less inhibited about discussing this treatment with friends, family, or on social media, it’s provided an opportunity to rethink mental health care and increase access to appropriate services. In particular, organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) have been long-time advocates for community-based mental health resources and policy change, which has been critical education within the industry. For plan sponsors however, this means ensuring that young people are getting their well-check visits, which usually results in referrals for other mental health services.
This changing mental health landscape obviously has an impact on employers – according to NAMI, depression costs U.S. employers $17 billion every year and, according to the Office of National Statistics, mental health conditions result in 16 million missed work days per year. However, it’s not all doom and gloom – per the American Psychiatric Association, there’s an 80 percent success rate when mental illness is treated and there are solutions available to do just that. The path forward isn’t easy but, with conversations like these and through offering focused support to those who need it, we are taking steps and making great strides to move in the direction of progress.