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Financial access to treatment

Can you remember a time when you knew you needed help with a medical problem or some issue had your mental side all messed up but you didn’t have the money to pay out of pocket for it, you didn’t have health insurance, and even if you did, most likely your insurance wasn’t going to cover it?

Have you looked around at the people who populate your life and noticed how they look, how they have changed in the past two years or so? Aging. Stress. Fear. Paranoia. Contention. Where is the joy? The laughter? The truly living life? Some periodicals say that the country is “languishing.”

(Psychcentral.com tells us, “Some experts associate languishing with overall feelings of emptiness or just not feeling anything at all. In other words, you may feel different – low – but not experience any extreme negative emotions. While languishing is not a formal mental health diagnosis, the emotions you’re experiencing are valid and real.”)

Everyone has been affected in some way by world events that challenge well-being, so there is surely reason enough to believe the languishing. But there are more serious issues that face a lot of people. Self-harm, substance abuse, alcoholism, victimization, all are very real challenges but sometimes all you can see are obstacles you can’t get over, around or through until someone reaches out to you and says, “This may help.” It may take time, but you find the hope, the energy, the motivation to fight your way back.

It’s been a long while since we took a look at “parity,” making sure that coverage of mental health and substance use disorders is covered just as any other medical condition is covered.

The U.S. Department of Labor issues a new report every two years, the most recent in 2020. In 2018, the report says, one in every five adults experienced mental illness; 20.3 million persons aged 12 and up suffered a substance use disorder (14.8 million, alcohol use disorder; 8.1 million, illicit drug use disorder and of these, 2 million, opioid use disorder.)

“While so many Americans are affected by mental illness, less than half receive the treatment they need. Even when individuals can access care, life-saving treatment is too often not covered by their health plans,” the report says.

The issue has been grappled with over the years. In 2008, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was passed, but not everyone was covered. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 covered people and small group plans. But too many people still don’t get the care that they need. It’s still beyond their reach.

The Ohio Department of Insurance will be offering a free mental health insurance webinar from 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesday to help Ohioans understand their mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) benefits and how to access those benefits for care. The webinar will discuss

• How the department regulates mental health and SUD benefits.

• Help people determine what type of mental health and substance use disorder benefits are in their health plan.

• Provide a tutorial about the mental health and SUD tools and resources at the department’s website, including how to file a complaint and appeal a denied claim.

“Each year, more than 2 million Ohioans experience a mental health condition. The department is dedicated to educating Ohioans about the role insurance may play in receiving treatment.” To register for the free webinar, contact the Ohio Department of Insurance at 800-686-1526.

Family Recovery Center helps families to find ways to navigate through the challenges we face. For more information about the agency’s treatment and education programs, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468, or email, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by the Columbiana County Department of Jobs and Family Services.

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