Indiana ranks 7th worst among states for adults with unmet mental health needs

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More than one-quarter of Hoosier adults with mental illness have not been able to receive the treatment they need, ranking Indiana seventh-highest among all states, according to a new, comprehensive study.

That’s due to a combination of factors, including a shortage of psychiatrists, insufficient finances, lack of insurance and lack of treatment sites or options, according to a new report from Mental Health America, a not-for-profit advocacy group based in Alexandria, Virginia.

Indiana ranks ninth worst among states for the ratio of mental health providers (psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, counselors, marriage and family therapists and advanced practice nurses specializing in mental health care) to patients, the report said.

It did not single out any reason for Indiana’s high ranking compared to other states, although it pointed out that Indiana has a relatively small mental health workforce.

“Mental health provider shortages result in little access to care, high burnout rates among providers and long waits for necessary treatment,” said the group’s report, “The State of Mental Health in America 2020.”

Indiana has been undergoing a huge shift in psychiatric care in recent years. A century ago, the state housed mental health patients at huge psychiatric hospitals, often at asylums far from cities. Patients often worked on farms as part of their care in lieu of modern treatments.

But most of huge institutions no longer exist. In the 1970s and 1980s, Indiana closed seven of its 13 psychiatric hospitals, as many other states were doing during a wave of deinstitutionalization. That led to a huge shift in patients seeking care elsewhere, often in more expensive and less therapeutic settings, including prisons.

But in the past few years, Indiana has begun to change its model. The state’s newest psychiatric hospital, the 159-bed Indiana Neuro Diagnostic Institute on the campus of Community Hospital East, serves as a central flagship facility where doctors can assess and diagnose patients with acute and chronic health conditions, addictions, developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and degenerative illnesses.

Yet, Indiana and other states still don’t have the resources to meet the challenge at hand, the national report says.

Nationwide, an estimated 44 million adults, or 18% of the U.S. population, suffer from mental illness, ranging from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

In Indiana, the number is 1.04 million, or 21% of the population. The number of Hoosiers with any mental illness who are unable to receive treatment is 272,000, or about 25.2% of that group.

Only six states reported higher percentages of adults with any mental illness who are unable to get treatment: Utah, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oregon, Virginia and Kansas.

Other highlights of the report:

  • The number of Hoosier adults with any mental illness who are uninsured is 102,000, ranking Indiana 28th on a per capita basis.
  • Indiana ranked 16th best among states with a substance use disorder in the past year.
  • Indiana ranked 8th worst among state for percentage of adults reporting serious thoughts of suicide (5.04%).
  • Indiana ranked in the middle of the pack (31st) for percentage of youth suffering for at least one major depressive episode in the past year (74,000, or 13.8%).

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