Long Islanders Struggle to Find Mental Health Services: Survey

If you’re having trouble accessing mental health services on Long Island, you’re not alone. Even those with health insurance face challenges when trying to access care.

That’s according to findings in the latest Mount Sinai South Nassau Truth in Medicine study released Tuesday.

“We have a crisis on Long Island when it comes to the lack of mental health services,” Dr. Adhi Sharma, president of Mount Sinai South Nassau, said in a statement about the findings.

Sponsored by Bethpage Credit Union, the poll was conducted between July 24 and July 28 via landlines and cell phones with 600 Long Island residents. The scores have an era margin of plus or minus 3.9%.

People seek mental health services for a variety of reasons. But since the pandemic, anxiety, depression, social isolation and fear of contracting COVID-19 have been most prevalent, according to the survey.

Among the respondents, 92% have health insurance. Still, of those seeking care, 36% said getting the help they wanted or needed was a “challenge,” mostly due to scheduling capacity difficulties or a lack of coverage from their health care providers. Additional challenges include provider proximity and affordability.

And institutions – including government, municipalities and schools – could do more to increase the reach of mental health services in the region, respondents said. Of those surveyed, 46% say the government is not doing enough to help, while 32% say the government is.

“The survey results strongly indicate that suppliers are operating at or beyond capacity,” Sharma said. “This requires aggressive expansion of mental health screening, prevention and intervention services to meet current and future demand for them.”

Since the pandemic, about 84% of mental health providers have seen an increase in demand for anxiety treatment compared to 74% a year ago, while 72% of providers have seen an increase in demand for depression treatment compared to 60% in 2020.

School officials have reported spikes in seeking mental health services among students, including elementary and middle school students, according to Mount Sinai South Nassau. Meanwhile, some psychiatrists and psychologists report high demand for services but difficulty finding adequate staff to meet the demand.

Some local school leaders have called on government officials to do more to address mental health needs in schools and local communities.

In the case of a mental health emergency, 64% of respondents and 80% of respondents with children said they knew where to find services, while 20% disagreed and 17% were unsure.

Mount Sinai South Nassau has a 36-bed inpatient mental health unit and offers behavioral health services at its Baldwin Mental Health Center as well as its Hempstead Primary and Behavioral Health Center.

And on Long Island, health systems offer mental health services, including NYU Langone Hospital Long Island, Stony Brook Medicine, Catholic Health and Northwell Health, which now have several pediatric behavioral health emergency centers. Other organizations that provide mental health services or access to support include the North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center, as well as the Family & Children’s Association and the Family Service League, among others.

Meanwhile, the recent Truth in Medicine Poll gave a mixed response on whether mental health services in the region are adequate. In the survey, 36% said they were satisfactory, 29% said they were not, and 35% were unsure. About 50% who used mental health services said they were enough.

“The stressors of modern life are challenging for most of us and have been made much more difficult by the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the hardship and grief it has caused,” Aaron Glatt, MD, Chair of the Department of Medicine and Head of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau, the statement said.

“There are actions we can take to live confidently and safely during the pandemic. If you or someone you love is struggling emotionally and it’s interfering with daily life, don’t wait to get help,” Glatt said.

A whopping 89% of respondents and 97% of those who have used mental health services since the start of the pandemic say mental health should be a priority for hospitals, just like cancer and heart health.

Although the percentage of children and teens receiving therapy for mental health problems related to stress, anxiety, bullying, or substance abuse has increased, it has worsened since COVID-19. In the past year, 15% with young children and 20% with a child under 12 sought professional help for the child’s mental health, the survey found.

Recognizing that many children with psychiatric disorders go unidentified and untreated, the US Preventive Services Task Force recently issued a recommendation calling for anxiety screening of asymptomatic children ages 8 to 18 who have not been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and screening to children aged 12 to 18 years. for major depressive disorder.

Of those who accessed mental health care for a child, 25% said it was in person, 21% said they used telemedicine, and 43% used both. Among those who have used telemedicine, most rate it as fair. Those who had not used telemedicine expressed little interest in doing so in the future.

“The key to knowing when to seek help is to determine how symptoms affect overall functioning,” Dr. Stanley Reddy, chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at Mount Sinai South Nassau, said in a statement. “Noticed decline in functioning at work, school, and home should be evaluated by a professional immediately before it becomes an emergency.”

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