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What’s being done to close Louisiana’s mental health gap?

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 11:57 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 23, 2021 at 7:43 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates about 715,000 adults in Louisiana have a mental health condition. In February 2021, more than 47% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Charlotte Claiborne and her team at Bridge Center for Hope have seen for themselves what happens when mental health is neglected or not properly treated, especially over the last year.

“When we had the pandemic, the need became a little higher because a lot of people who were going to see their service providers were not able to do so because of the fact that we had to be sheltered in place at that time,” said Charlotte Claiborne, Executive Director at the Bridge Center for Hope.

As a result, the Baton Rouge area saw an increase in overdoses as people chose to self-medicate instead of seeking treatment.

“We know that mental health awareness has been heightened, a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety about the unknown,” said Michelle McCalope, Marketing and Communications Director at CareSouth Medical and Dental Health.

Some Louisianans may be putting off getting the help they need because they’re afraid they can’t afford to pay for services. According to LDH, Louisiana Medicaid covers both mental health and substance abuse treatment. As for other insured patients, out-of-pocket costs may be intimidating, but the price shouldn’t deter you from seeking treatment.

“Mental health just starts everywhere. Mental health is just like your physical health,” said Claiborne.

The last thing behavior health centers want to do is add monetary stress to what you’re already going through.

We uncovered another setback some patients face. Residents are four times more likely to be forced out of network for mental health care than for primary health care. That can make it harder to find help, and once you find someone who will take on a new patient, it could mean your out-of-pocket costs will be higher than an in-network physician.

The main message from local behavior health centers is that you do have options.

“And so we want people to know that they aren’t alone, that there are a lot of resources,” said McCalope.

Over the next few months, Claiborne will be teaming up with other local providers to bring mental health services to the community while spreading awareness of substance use and other vital services available in the area. They are hoping to close the gap between people and access to the mental health they need.

The Bridge Center for Hope and other organizations will host multiple events providing more opportunities for folks to learn more about mental health resources and services in our community. You can call their number at (225) 256-6604.

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