Mental health treatment system is in serious need of repair

Will Wooton, Director of Pacific Treatment Services, writes for Pomerado News and is the and co-author of “Bring Your Teen Back From The Brink.” PTS is a substance abuse company working with teens and young adults. 

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Mental health treatment system is in serious need of repair

How many people can you name that have experienced struggles with mental health? How many idols has each generation lost to overdoses or suicides? How many mothers and fathers have been incarcerated instead of being treated, thus leaving a younger generation parentless?

At some point we need to overhaul the system. By not addressing these issues in an effective way, how can we honestly expect society to improve?

I will be the first to say I don’t have all the answers. This is a complex problem and it will take more then one person’s opinion to fix it. What I do know is that what we are doing isn’t working.

Like politics, religion or gun control, there can always be a heated debate. What I do know is that the cost of treating mental illness has gotten to be so astronomical that only the wealthiest receive top-notch care.

Most, if we are lucky, can see a therapist or a medical doctor with our insurance, but what about those who need a higher level? Inpatient programs may be needed but, if you don’t have quality insurance, you better have big bucks to spend. This is all assuming that any issue you have can be treated in a few weeks. I can tell you from working in substance abuse that no treatment plan is for two weeks and can be an ongoing process that, in some cases, may take years.

We have all heard a thousand times now that, thanks to universal health care, everyone will have insurance and the ability to get help. Here is the problem: There are as many health plans as stars in the sky. Just because you have health insurance doesn’t mean you have access to quality mental health or substance abuse care. Often the cheaper health insurance plans are all in-network contracted plans giving you little to no options of where to go for help.

In the past I’ve been an in-network provider for outpatient treatment and, unfortunately, insurance limits your care to a minimum every chance they can. I’ve also been an out-of-network provider and only those with top tier insurance can choose where they go without a hefty deductible.

I think the general public would be amazed if they knew how much is billed for inpatient and outpatient care to an insurance company. Believe me, the system is broken and the general population is not getting help. Drive downtown in any major city and you will see homeless, mentally unstable people needing care. These people are known to the county or medical hospitals as they are repeat patients. The system isn’t set up for them to stay healthy; it is set up to get them well enough to go back to the streets — a process repeated every few weeks or months.

I’m sure you have seen commercials for luxury treatment programs offering private chefs and more amenities then most vacation spots offer, yet we have people who can’t afford any level of care. We arrest addicts and mentally ill and pay for them to be housed with criminals yet setting up systems for them to receive on-going treatment seems undoable.

We must demand more from our leaders in addressing these issues. We must stand up to the insurance companies making rules that are based on their profit margins, not on the well-being of those in need. I can’t help but feel if we took just 10 percent of the funds used to jail the sick and came up with a standardized cost for care, that the system as a whole would be pointed in a better direction.