The Ever-Reaching Extent of America’s Mental Health Crisis—and Our Response

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COVID-19 and other factors have increasingly compromised mental health in America, leading to an alarming crisis among our youth and a response from Bamboo Health.

According to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Census Bureau, over one-third of American adults are experiencing some symptoms of anxiety or depression—a three- to four-fold increase over 2019. The numbers are fairly consistent across demographics, with young adults affected most.

COVID has stifled young adults and children in numerous ways. First and foremost, it has prevented regular, in-person socialization, particularly in classrooms. Second, it—and the media’s justified, yet relentless coverage of it—has caused angst, especially in the malleable minds of our youth. This heightened level of stress can precipitate into anxiety, depression, or worse.

It is worth noting that COVID is not the only factor that has contributed to this crisis. It has been argued that other factors such as devalued parental care and lack of access to care have also played major roles.

Sadly, many hospitals across the country have realized a dramatic increase in emergency department (ED) visits related to mental health, triggering capacity issues and delaying proper care. At Wolfson’s Children Hospital in Jacksonville, FL, over two-dozen children have been boarded in rooms, awaiting open beds in the hospital’s inpatient psychiatric unit. In Colorado, Children’s Hospital Colorado has declared a state of emergency for pediatric mental health.

Mental health issues all too often go hand-in-hand with substance use disorder (SUD). In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 60% of adolescents in SUD treatment programs can be diagnosed with mental illness, and vice versa.

The worst-case scenario for anyone suffering from mental health issues and/or SUD is suicide, and unfortunately, there are some ominous trends. The CDC has recognized an increase in attempted suicides by teenage girls; ED visits because of suspected suicides rose 51% for girls aged 12 to 17 from 2019 to 2020.

Bamboo Health’s Response to America’s Mental Health Crisis

As you may know, Bamboo Health acquired OpenBeds in late 2019. OpenBeds is a comprehensive behavioral health capacity management and referral technology solution. It is our goal to help states, health systems, and health plans provide access to care to at-risk consumers, combating the crisis and, in turn, improving public health.

Two years later, OpenBeds goes beyond capacity management and referrals, with two different tools developed in response to today’s mental health and SUD crisis.

Our Treatment Connection tool enables the public to seek treatment for themselves or their loved ones in our customer states, in a confidential manner. In each state, we facilitate a network of state-vetted providers who offer inpatient and outpatient services. Between visiting Treatment Connection and being connected to fitting treatment, there are just three steps: searching for treatment, learning about treatment, and expressing interest.

Our Crisis Management module has revamped the way people in crisis are rapidly connected to care. The module expedites access to assessment and treatment for those in crisis, tracks their journey from call to treatment, and coordinates all stakeholders within a crisis management system, including the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, law enforcement agencies, local community organizations, and hospitals and healthcare facilities. A direct link between crisis call center professionals and mobile crisis response teams—all in a user-friendly interface—offers faster responses and treatment.

As Dr. Nishi Rawat, OpenBeds’ Co-Founder and Bamboo Health Chief Medical Officer states, “Over the past year, we’ve been getting more and more requests… to support the end-to-end clinical crisis continuum… the demand for behavioral health services is unprecedented.”