The COVID-19 pandemic has led to record unemployment claims and a weakened U.S. economy. This column reviews results of past research to examine how a recession might affect behavioral health and the treatment of mental and substance use disorders and suggests potential policy solutions. Despite increases in suicide and substance use, losses in employment-related health insurance could dampen treatment seeking. Federal, state, and local officials should be vigilant regarding suicide prevention. Individuals who lose employee insurance coverage should be protected through insurance marketplaces and Medicaid outreach and enrollment. Public and private coverage of telehealth, which has already been expanded, should continue beyond the pandemic. Federal support for community behavioral health organizations should continue to offset state and local budget cuts and ensure provision of needed treatment. The capacity of social services should be expanded as well as systems that facilitate client connection to social services.
How to mitigate the mental health care consequences of the COVID-19 financial crisis