Improving Behavioral Health During COVID-19 and Beyond

Every day, Medicaid plays a critical role in providing affordable, high-quality behavioral health services for those who need it most. Nearly 52 million adults across the U.S. are affected by mental or behavioral health disorders each year. Medicaid is the single largest payer for behavioral health services in the country, serving 26% of all adults living with a serious behavioral health disease.

The behavioral health challenges facing the nation have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has intensified factors that negatively impact health and wellness, such as isolation and stress.

As the largest Medicaid managed care organization in the country, Centene, a Modern Medicaid Alliance partner, has worked to advance behavioral and mental health services for members for years. Those essential efforts have been even more impactful throughout the pandemic. Some of the most important areas that Centene works to address in improving members’ behavioral health include access to care and opioid addiction.

Raising Awareness of Substance Use Disorder

COVID-19 has fueled a troubling rise in substance use disorder (SUD), defined as when the recurrent use of alcohol or drugs causes significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities. Research has shown that substance abuse has increased by 20% among those diagnosed with SUD since the pandemic began.

Further, a report from June 2020 found that 13% of respondents had started or increased substance use to cope with COVID-19-related stress.

As a leader in advancing behavioral health, Centene is at the forefront of addressing and preventing SUD. Its efforts include creating the innovative OpiEnd program in 2017. OpiEnd is an evidence-based program that uses predictive modeling to identify members at high risk of developing an opioid addiction and connects them with care providers. By taking a proactive approach, the program employs early intervention to prevent opioid misuse which can ultimately save lives.

Given the acute focus on behavioral health, Centene Advanced Behavioral Health recently released a white paper reinforcing the importance of tailoring support to the unique needs of populations. The paper outlines key recommendations for how recovery and prevention can be achieved while decreasing health disparities.

Enhancing Mental Wellbeing through Telehealth

Behavioral health is a major component of overall wellness, during and outside of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent report found that the number of patients facing moderate to severe symptoms of depression and anxiety increased throughout 2020, and rates remain higher than pre-pandemic levels. The pandemic has also reinforced that the ability of underserved populations to access behavioral health services via telehealth is crucial.

According to Centene claims data, 9 of the top 10 primary diagnoses treated in a telehealth context are behavioral health disorders based on total claim paid amount, and demand for virtual behavioral health services is expected to increase. Centene is committed to providing access to telehealth services, particularly TeleBehavioral Health (TeleBH).

A recent white paper from Centene Advanced Behavioral Health outlines recommendations, best practices, and the many benefits of TeleBH. Through efforts to increase access, quality of care, strong support of provider partnerships, and influencing national and state policy, TeleBH can enhance the mental wellbeing of individuals and families across the country.

Centene is also a member of the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, a Modern Medicaid Alliance partner, which is dedicated to advancing federal policy and educating the public on mental health and addiction care.

Learn more about how Centene is mitigating disparities and increasing access to high-quality healthcare.