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Removing Care Barriers and Stigma in Mental Health

By Andrea Kao, Vice President of Innovation

The increased need for more mental health resources isn’t going away. A lack of timely access to providers has hindered those seeking help for years. It’s a problem across the country as there just aren’t enough providers to meet the need. The pandemic created even greater demand as the prevalence of mental health issues grew. But in response, it also brought expanded offerings for care across almost every specialty, including mental health.

As the spotlight shines bright on mental health, Allina Health | Aetna is working to be a part of the solution by removing the barriers we can—cost, access and navigation—and supporting the destigmatization of mental health. The expansion of telehealth during the pandemic opened the door for more innovative ways to help patients access resources with new, more timely avenues. Mental health care models have also evolved to recognize a whole-person approach. Addressing physical, social, nutritional and other aspects of a person’s life can lead to better mental health outcomes.

Addressing Mental Health in America

It takes, on average, a staggering 11 years for Americans to seek care from the onset of mental health symptoms. Providers are overwhelmed by the demand, with more than 25 million Americans living in an area where there is a shortage of mental health professionals. As virtual technology, privacy and connectivity continue to improve, the number of touchpoints available has expanded. But, there is still a growing, unmet need to provide focused support for specific populations such as LGBTQ+, pediatrics and opioid and substance abuse.

Both of our parent companies, Allina Health and Aetna, are committed to offering more to our members. From programs for adolescents to adults and seniors, Aetna offers support for those dealing with a range of issues including depression, stress and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These services can be self-guided, or members can connect directly to a provider either in-person or virtually. Allina Health continues to make mental health a priority, something they’ve done for years. Allina Health has integrated mental health services into its primary care clinics, making it easier and more seamless for patients to access care. Providing visits by phone, text, video or in-person ensures our members have multiple points of access to coaching, therapy services and other avenues of support when they need them.

Innovating to Address Barriers

Innovating and finding new ways to address the shortage of mental health resources is one way health insurance companies can make it easier for members to get help in a timely manner. We know that members often don’t even know where to start. Figuring out what programs are even offered by a member’s health plan can be confusing and overwhelming.

Allina Health | Aetna is introducing a pilot program where mental health consultants offer a single entry point for members seeking support. Tapping into the resources from both Aetna and Allina Health, these consultants can assess, provide care and navigate members to programs and providers available through their Allina Health | Aetna benefits. By making it easier to take that first step, we hope more members will seek out the mental health care they need.

The Future of Mental Health

In a perfect world, all people would be able to recognize when they are experiencing mental health issues, they wouldn’t feel a stigma around seeking out care and they would be able to access and afford the care they need in a timely manner. While we are striving to get to that point, we’ve seen the consequences of not putting in the work to achieve this. People with serious mental illness are nearly twice as likely to develop cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Students with significant signs of depression are more than twice as likely to drop out of high school.

Supporting this as not just a health care issue, but a nationwide social issue, means supporting community organizations such as NAMI MN. While we at Allina Health | Aetna continue to push for more innovation and resources to address all mental health issues, we’re committed to supporting both our parent companies and our members and working together to help those who need it the most.

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Our health coverage solutions bring together local expertise with the experience of a leading national insurance brand. We provide plans that deliver the services members value with the type of cost clarity that gives peace of mind.

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Health benefits and health plans are offered, underwritten or administered by Allina Health and Aetna Insurance Company (Allina Health | Aetna).  Allina Health l Aetna is an affiliate of Aetna Life Insurance Company and its affiliates (Aetna).  Allina Health | Aetna has sole responsibility for its products and services. Aetna provides certain management services to Allina Health | Aetna. Aetna and MinuteClinic, LLC (which either operates or provides certain management support services to MinuteClinic-branded walk-in clinics) are both within the CVS Health family.

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