Many people are struggling with issues that fall under the behavioral health category. Some dealing with issues such as mental health challenges aren’t getting the treatment required, or they lack the necessary resources. For example, an estimated 44 million adults are living with mental illness – yet only 40 percent are actively receiving treatment.
There is also a growing amount of research suggesting that behavioral health and physical health are closely related. Sixty-eight percent of adults with mental health disorders also struggle with medical conditions. Some of these conditions are chronic, and the cost of managing these conditions is high. The cost of managing the physical health of a patient with an underlying behavioral issue is estimated to be three times more than that of a patient without these challenges. Chronic health conditions account for 81 percent of all hospital admissions, 91 percent of all prescriptions filled and 76 percent of all physician visits.
The upside is that employers can play a large role in getting people the care that they need through behavioral health services. An increasing number of employers understand the importance of these programs and work to connect the right programs and services to the employees who need them most. At the same time, resources are being reimagined in the arena of behavioral health and substance abuse prevention, which provides greater efficiency and decreased costs.
Behavioral Health Versus Mental Health – What’s the Difference?
Behavioral health describes the connection between the health and well-being of the body and the mind. This can include a variety of areas – everything from eating habits to drinking habits to exercise and various mental health challenges. Behavioral health can extend to psychiatric conditions, marriage and family counseling, and addiction treatments.
For every 10 people who visit a doctor, there are seven who are there for reasons related to behavioral health, according to the Maine Health Access Foundation. But what is behavioral health, and how does it impact the lives of employees?
The terms “behavioral health” and “mental health” are often used interchangeably, but there are some distinct differences. The best way to think about it is that mental health is just one aspect of the larger category of behavioral health. For example, an employee might need to tap into behavioral health benefits, but what they might specifically need is help managing depression or help with a substance abuse issue.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Mental health, which is one area of behavioral health, can include a variety of factors, such as biology, psychological state, and habits. Behavioral health focuses on how habits are affecting overall physical and mental well-being. This area is also designed to be more inclusive and incorporate more of the challenges that people face. Psychology Today describes behavioral health as the following.
“It’s a way of being inclusive. Behavioral health includes not only ways of promoting well-being by preventing or intervening in mental illness such as depression or anxiety, but also has as an aim preventing or intervening in substance abuse or other addictions.”
Many of the services included in behavioral health do not fall under the traditional category of mental health. For example, let’s say that an employee is struggling with obesity. A behavioral health professional may consider behaviors that may have contributed to that person’s struggle with obesity as part of their treatment plan.
The term “behavioral health” may also have less of a stigma, according to Psychology Today, which may encourage people to reach out and get help when they need it. The services and options available to a person seeking help are also more diverse, giving them resources that weren’t available in the past to resolve their challenges.
A Breakdown of Behavioral Health Services
The variety of services available to employees who need help has expanded in recent years. These services are targeted to help people live healthier lives in regard to their mind, body and overall health. There are a variety of services that a person might need depending on his or her individual challenges. One person may need help with substance abuse, while another may be managing bipolar disorder – and another might need help with marital problems.
The services are targeted to assist with a variety of issues – everything from depression to anxiety to diabetes management, weight loss, drinking, and drug use and much more. The issue a person is facing will determine which type of healthcare provider and service is most relevant. Examples of services that an employee can tap into through a behavioral health program include the following.
Psychiatrists. These providers can help with a variety of challenges, from child and adolescent psychiatric issues to geriatric psychiatry to addiction psychiatry. These providers can write prescriptions to assist with the healing process if required by the patient’s condition.
Psychologists. These providers are trained in the science of psychology and work in a clinical, counseling or research setting. They work to diagnose and offer psychotherapy to assist with healing the patient’s condition.
Social Workers. These professionals can provide a wide variety of services, usually in administrative positions within programs and institutions to assist people. For example, there are medical and health social workers, child, family, and school social workers, and mental health and substance abuse social workers, just to name a few areas in which these individuals work.
Licensed Professional Counselors. These counselors typically specialize in psychotherapy to assist with a patient’s condition. These professionals may focus on specific behavioral health areas, such as marriage issues or substance abuse. LPCs typically don’t provide a formal diagnosis or prescribe medications.
Behavioral health services are designed to treat the underlying cause(s) of a specific behavior. For example, in the field of suicide prevention, the practitioner won’t only want to prevent the behaviors that may result in suicide but also to understand the underlying causes of those behaviors to help the patient in the long term.
The Business Impacts of Behavioral Health
Many people who need to tap into behavioral health benefits are struggling with mental health-related issues. Mental health disorders are some of the most burdensome health concerns in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. It’s estimated that one of five U.S. adults have experienced a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder in the past year. Even more alarming is the fact that 71 percent of those in the workforce who are struggling with these types of issues have not reached out for help.
There is also a well-documented connection between mental health challenges and medical issues, such as heart disease, respiratory illness, and other challenges. The cost of treating people with mental health challenges and other physical ailments is reported to be two to three times higher than that of those without co-occurring illnesses. A large number of Americans, 63 percent, are in the U.S. labor force, and the workplace is a key location for activities designed to improve well-being among adults.
For example, workplace wellness programs and access to behavioral health services may assist with identifying people at risk and connecting them to treatment and the support required to get better. Employees who know they have access to these benefits through their employer’s benefits plan and can get access to the necessary resources can start on the path to recovery sooner.
Addressing behavioral health challenges in the workplace more efficiently can also help reduce healthcare costs for both businesses and employees. For example, mental health issues affect businesses and their employees in the following areas, according to the CDC:
- Job performance and productivity.
- Engagement with a person’s work.
- Communication with coworkers.
- Physical capacity for daily functionality.
Mental illnesses, such as depression, are also associated with higher risks of disability and unemployment.
- Depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks an estimated 20 percent of the time and reduces cognitive performance roughly 35 percent of the time.
- Only 57 percent of employees who report moderate depression and 40 percent who report severe depression receive treatment to control depression symptoms.
- Mental disorders in the United States have cost the business sector roughly $50.7 billion. Employee mental health costs are rising twice as fast as all other medical expenses. Those struggling with mental health issues make six times as many emergency room visits as does the overall population. People suffering from depression, for example, submit an average of $14,967 in claims annually, as compared with $5,929 for the total population.
What’s more is that behavioral health problems are a leading cause of illness and disability. For example, employees suffering from depression and stress have health costs estimated at 70 percent and 46 percent more, respectively, when compared with healthier counterparts. It’s also estimated that 28 million workers are experiencing a mental or substance abuse disorder, which means that many employers are struggling with these issues.
Employers have started to make behavioral and mental health issues a top priority, putting them on par with cancer, diabetes and other serious ailments, according to a new survey of 687 companies conducted by Willis Towers Watson. Of the employees surveyed, 57 percent said they plan to focus on mental and behavior health heavily over the next few years.
Breaking Down “Managed Behavioral Health”
The growing urgency of managing behavioral health challenges is making this a priority for many employers. A one-size-fits-all approach is no longer effective, as new and innovative approaches are allowing employers to help their employees get access to the exact services they require in a more effective and efficient way.
Managed behavioral health programs take a clinical and professional consultative approach to behavioral health, substance abuse, and comorbid conditions, integrating them with ongoing medical care to ensure better outcomes for patients.
For example, IBH deploys clinical methodologies and data-driven technologies to fully integrate the managed behavioral health programs with other population health offerings. As a result, members of the program can access expert referrals to appropriate benefits and resources within IBH or the other relevant benefit providers.
The IBH staff doctors are solely focused on managing the behavioral healthcare needs of members. Strong case management leads directly to higher recovery rates and reduces mental health claims. For example, IBH has seen over 87 percent addiction recovery rates for those patients enrolled in their MBH program.Deploying these types of programs in your business allows employees to access the services that they need most and also helps employees resolve their challenges so they can return to work.
Moving Into the Future With Greater Health
Employers are invested in the health of their employees and are constantly looking for ways to provide greater care. At the same time, with the rising cost of healthcare, employers are looking to accomplish this with greater efficiency and sensitivity toward using resources responsibly. Innovative technology is allowing for both.
Employees get access to a greater number of services in the behavioral health category – everything from traditional mental health services to addiction treatments and counseling for various challenges – and they get the services delivered in a way that optimizes health outcomes and empowers them to improve overall health.
Accomplishing this feat not only helps employers build stronger relationships with employees, since they know that employers are looking out for their entirewell-being, but it also allows companies to spend resources in a more effective manner and drive long-term health and success for the employee and the organization.