Updated July 2 at 5:02pm

Study: Mental health worse in R.I. than nation

By Richard Asinof
PBN Staff Writer

Rhode Island has a new statistical tool to measure its relative wellness against such national indicators as breast cancer, obesity, access to health insurance and mental health.

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Focus: HEALTH CARE

Study: Mental health worse in R.I. than nation

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Rhode Island has a new statistical tool to measure its relative wellness against such national indicators as breast cancer, obesity, access to health insurance and mental health.

The statistics are derived from the statewide 2013 Rhode Island Community Health Needs Assessment, a requirement of the Affordable Care Act, which were released on May 1 at a news conference at Women & Infants Hospital.

The major “unfavorable” finding of the new health-needs assessment was that Rhode Island has a big problem with its mental health.

The mental-health finding was compiled by Holleran Consulting, the Mountville, Penn., firm hired to conduct the health-needs assessment. Holleran’s study found that 22 percent, nearly one-fifth of Rhode Islanders, had been told that they had a depressive disorder, compared to an average of 16.8 percent nationally, according to Colleen Milligan, director of Health & Human Services at Holleran.

In a similar finding, 15.4 percent of Rhode Islanders answered that poor physical or mental health kept them for doing their usual activities between 15 and 30 days during past month.

In a follow-up, Holleran conducted in-depth telephone interviews with 49 local health and human service professionals and community leaders, who said that the top two “key health issues” were access to health care (82 percent) and mental health/suicide (47 percent), according to the report. In terms of resources needed, 23 of the 49 leaders named mental-health services.

From his position on the ground, administering a network of busy community health centers, Merrill R. Thomas, the CEO of the Providence Community Health Centers, agreed with the health-need assessment that mental health is a big issue.

The problem is not awareness or integration of services, he said, but the fact that health centers and behavioral health centers get paid in different ways. “There are two different silos in terms of insurance financial payments, with different rates, depending on what’s covered, who’s a billable provider and who is credentialed,” he said.

As a result, Thomas said, continuity of care and treatment in behavioral health has become an issue, or more precisely, an insurance issue.

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