Mental health discussion centers around barriers

In conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month, Mental Health Colorado’s Statewide Tour visited La Junta and Arkansas Valley residents recently at Woodruff Memorial Library.

The tour focused on the barriers that prevent people from getting the mental health care that they need and the solutions to ensuring that appropriate care is provided to individuals in the Arkansas Valley. At the state level, Mental Health Colorado advocates for the more than one million Coloradans who experience a mental health or substance use disorder each year. They engage policymakers, providers, the public and the press to promote early intervention, expand access to affordable services, and eradicate stigma and discrimination.

CEO Andrew Romanoff conducted the meeting, saying to participants, “Approximately one in five people suffer from some kind of mental illness but only about 40 percent receive care. Our focus is to ensure the number of individuals who seek treatment goes up.”

Romanoff shared the barriers that most Coloradans say prevent them or a loved one from seeking the mental health care they need, including cost of treatment (57 percent), uninsured (15 percent), didn’t think insurance would cover it (43 percent), did not feel comfortable speaking about it (40 percent), concerned about what would happen if someone found out (28 percent), and access to appointments (34 percent).

Locally, individuals, made up of mostly health care professionals, expressed concerns related to Medicaid versus private insurance and hoops they or patients have been forced to jump through to receive care. A number of individuals cited mental illness as a secondary illness in the eyes of insurance companies or healthcare professionals, which has made access to care difficult.

Romanoff encouraged participants to visit the Mental Health Colorado website where he said they can take a survey to be instructed on the the best solution for their needs, adding “in the end, the best lobbyists that you can have are sitting in this room. It’s you. We are going to take in all of the concerns, some unique to your area, and do our best to help you. Together, we will channel solutions and do something about it.”

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