Promoting Strong Mental Health Services through Medicaid

As National Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, the Modern Medicaid Alliance is taking the opportunity to look back on the work our partners are doing – not just in May but every day of the year – to support Americans with mental health needs.

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans lives with a mental health condition, and organizations across the country are raising awareness of those conditions and helping erase the stigma – making it easier for Americans to ask for and receive help when they need.

We’re proud that so many of our Modern Medicaid members are active on this important issue, serving the almost 10 million Americans with diagnosed mental illnesses who rely on Medicaid for their care. We spoke to our Alliance partners about how the program is a crucial lifeline for Americans with mental health needs.

In addition to being the largest health care provider in the country, Medicaid is the largest payer of mental health services. “Medicaid finances a broad range of behavioral health services including medications to treat mental illness and recovery-oriented support services such as counseling, case management, peer support and services in permanent supportive housing,” says Andrew Sperling, Director of Legislative and Policy Advocacy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

1 in 5 children experience a mental health issue, yet only 20 percent receive necessary care – a gap which Medicaid addresses. According to Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, Director, Policy and Advocacy, at the National Association of School Psychologists, “Medicaid covers comprehensive mental and behavioral health services including early identification and early intervention services.”

Unfortunately for the millions who rely on Medicaid, Many programs face threats to funding or adjustments that could severely limit services. “Cuts to Medicaid would mean cuts to critical mental health services… To best serve Americans, Medicaid needs to be built on, not stripped down,” says Nathaniel Counts, Associate Vice President of Policy  at Mental Health America.

Sperling agrees, “When reductions to Medicaid limit access to treatment and services for beneficiaries living with mental illness it creates enormous challenges at the community level.”

Schools would also face tremendous difficulty, as Medicaid serves as a critical resource for our nation’s vulnerable children and youth, according to Strobach: “Schools are particularly vulnerable to Medicaid cuts, and recent data gathered by AASA shows that cuts to Medicaid funding could lead to a reduction in services to students.”

As we recognize Mental Health Awareness Month this year, join us. Help us educate policymakers and the public about the tremendous role that Medicaid plays in treating mental illness in our communities.