Mental health parity and substance dependence treatment
Brown, April Lynn
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Substance dependence is a major epidemic in the United States. There is a need for getting those with substance dependence issues into treatment, as well as retaining patients in treatment for the full course of care. Mental health policy in the United States has shaped mental health care, especially substance dependence treatment. This study examined parity-related barriers that patients in treatment for substance dependence face. An instrument was developed and psychometrically validated to examine these barriers. Patients felt that mental health issues should be treated on par with other physical health issues, and that pharmacotherapies should be available to patients in treatment for substance dependence. Patients using health insurance to pay for substance dependence treatment reported fewer health insurance and payment barriers when compared to those not using health insurance. Additionally, patients using any self-pay for treatment costs reported significantly higher health insurance and payment barriers, and 28% of patients reported that paying for treatment would be their biggest barrier to completing treatment. Further, the same instrument was given to a subset of the general public in order to assess perceived barriers from potential patients. The general public perceived higher payment and health insurance barriers to paying for substance dependence treatment than patients currently in treatment for substance dependence. Half of the participants from the general public sample expressed that paying for treatment would affect their decision to seek treatment if they needed it. The general public participants also expressed demand for the availability of pharmacotherapies to treat substance dependence. The findings of this study illustrate the perceived opinions and barriers from both substance dependence patients and potential patients relating to mental health parity legislation. These findings can highlight areas that may cause patients to become noncompliant with treatment for substance dependence or prevent someone with a substance dependence issue from seeking treatment.