The Cost of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: The Good, The Bad, and The Silver Lining

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that:

These numbers are staggering, but there is good news. Millions of Americans today are receiving health care for mental or substance use disorders, thanks in large part due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA requires a range of health plans to cover essential benefits, including mental health and addiction treatments. Addiction treatment has been shown to reduce associated healthcare and social costs by far more than the cost of the treatment itself. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Drug treatment is less expensive than its alternatives, such as incarceration. According to estimates, every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of between $4 and $7 in reduced drug-related crime and criminal justice costs. When savings related to healthcare are included, total savings can exceed costs by a ratio of 12 to 1.”

The Cost of Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders

Now the bad news. Deficiencies in the delivery and quality of healthcare are preventing those suffering from both mental health and substance use disorders from receiving appropriate treatments, and this situation has costly consequences. How costly? Researchers from a Milliman study estimated that the price tag nationally for treating mental health and substance use disorders was $752 billion annually in 2017 – a 7.5 percent annualized increase in costs since 2014.

The Silver Lining

There is increasing momentum in our nation to address access and quality barriers in mental health and addiction treatment. These changes start with innovative healthcare initiatives, policy forums, as well as alternative payment models (APM) or payment approaches that give incentives to provide high-quality healthcare. Some initiatives making a difference include: 

The Addiction Recovery Medical Home (ARMH) is an alternative payment model 

launched by an alliance of leaders in the healthcare space. ARMH’s goal is to establish a continuum of care from the time a patient enters an acute-care setting and is diagnosed with a substance use disorder through their recovery process. The model would use capitated payments to adjust bundled payments during episodes of care, and it would give providers financial incentives to integrate care and recovery resources. 

The Kennedy Forum

The Kennedy Forum’s main mission is to drive change in our healthcare system. They partner with mental health and addiction advocates, policymakers, and business leaders around key opportunities for progress, including provider accountability, integration and coordination, technology, and brain fitness and health.

The Medicaid Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services  (ARTS) 

Created in Virginia, this initiative expanded addiction treatment services for all Medicaid enrollees and increased payment rates to providers for these services. The program was able to increase the number of Medicaid members receiving substance use disorder treatment by 57% while reducing emergency department visits related to SUDs by 14%. 

Co-Occurring Disorders, Addition, and Treatment

Often, people who suffer from addiction or substance use disorder also live with an underlying or untreated mental health condition. At Daylight Recovery Services, we tailor treatment to simultaneously address addiction or substance abuse along with any co-occurring disorders. If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health condition and a substance use disorder or addiction, get help now – contact us at 1-833-2DAYLIGHT to speak with one of our recovery experts. Through treatment, recovery is possible.