Pillar 4: Ensure ACCESS to Treatment
The fourth pillar of the “4 A’s” is ensuring access to behavioral/mental health treatment.
Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment
In its “Working Well” toolkit, the Center for Workplace Mental Health presents a number of promising practices for strengthening access to mental health treatment. If your company offers a health care plan, step one is to assess the specific mental health benefits that it covers, including treatment for substance abuse disorders. The Center advises asking the following questions.
Does your health care plan:
- Regularly provide information about mental health issues and employee benefits to reduce the stigma sometimes associated with seeking help for mental health problems?
- Provide access to valid mental health screening tools?
- Give employees easy access to mental health support and care – e.g., an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?
- Provide high quality outpatient and inpatient coverage for mental health treatment when needed? As well as easily-understood descriptions of how to access care?
- Provide appropriate access to outpatient care and a broad continuum of services, settings and providers?
- Cover effective prescription medications for mental health conditions at a level that encourages their appropriate regular use?
- Encourage mental health and stress management through a comprehensive wellness and health promotions program?
- Provide comprehensive services related to substance use disorders?
- Provide training to managers in conflict resolution and management skills to reduce excessive workplace stress?
- Provide training in identifying job performance problems related to mental health issues?
- Track disability claims for mental health conditions and provide case management services to facilitate timely return to work?
- Comply with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act?
(Source: “Working Well Toolkit,” Center for Workplace Mental Health)
Assessing your plan’s coverage for mental health treatment is also one way employers can support current local, state and federal efforts to address the nation’s opioid crisis, by helping not only current impacted employees but also those rejoining the workforce who may need ongoing access to treatment.
If your business does not currently offer a health care plan, the first step is to consider whether it may be feasible to do so. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor expanded access to affordable health coverage options for America’s small businesses and their employees through Association Health Plans. These plans allow small businesses to band together by geography or industry to obtain health care coverage as if they were a single large employer, resulting in better negotiating power with providers and greater economies of scale.
Other Tools and Strategies
Businesses that do not offer health care plans or plan to do so in the near future can still take steps to increase employees’ access to treatment, for example, by providing scheduling flexibility they may need to seek it. Employers can also offer their workers access to tools to help them assess their wellbeing and screen for mental health risks. Sources include the following:
- Screening Tool Gateway: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-Health Resources Services Administration (SAMHSA-HRSA) Center for Integrated Health Solutions (CIHS) links users to a range of tools that screen for depression, drug and alcohol use, bipolar disorder, suicide risk, anxiety disorders and trauma.
- Mental Health Screenings: Mental Health America’s (MHA) screening program provides a collection of online, free, anonymous, confidential and validated screening tools that can help individuals understand and learn about their mental health. Topics addressed include depression, eating disorders and addiction among others.