Depression: Stigma Eroding, But Care Access Lags in MN

Depression: Stigma Eroding, But Care Access Lags in MN Click to Enlarge

ST. PAUL, Minn. - October is Depression Awareness Month, and in Minnesota, advocates for mental health care say there have been positive steps in diagnosis and treatment - and more can be done. Today, there's more discussion and less stigma than in past years about depression and other mental health issues among policymakers and people in general. But Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota Chapter, says access to proper care is still a challenge.

"Some of it's due to workforce shortages," she states. "Some of it's due to the health plans not having very robust networks of providers."

In 2008, Congress passed a bill to ensure equal coverage of treatment for mental illness and addiction, but gaps still exist.
Earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office found that private insurance companies spend nearly 15% less for mental health care than public programs like Medicare. Despite some of those obstacles, Abderholden says state lawmakers have taken recent action to level the playing field for the insurance costs of mental health services. In the last session, lawmakers passed Minnesota's version of a parity law for enforcing equal care and treatment. And she says providers across the state are stepping up, as well.
"Some of our health care systems, our clinics, they're actually putting a mental health professional in primary care clinics," she points out.
As for improving awareness, Abderholden credits services for military veterans for engaging more discussion about suicide prevention. She says there's also greater awareness being raised in the agriculture community, as many farm families are dealing with financial stress.

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