Approximately half of all individuals who are diagnosed with mental disorders are affected by substance abuse, and vice versa. This comorbidity, the presence of two chronic conditions in one patient, is especially high among people with anxiety disorders including panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and mental disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder and ADHD.

Employers should take note of the connections between substance use disorders (SUDs), mental health, and physical disease. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that almost 11 million full-time workers in the United States have SUDs and American businesses absorb a large portion of the associated healthcare costs in part due to absenteeism and loss of productivity.  According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the impact from the loss of productivity equals approximately $130 billion annually. 

The Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity require that health plans treat mental health and substance use disorders the same way they treat other health issues. Mental health and substance use disorder coverage must be comparable to coverage for general medical and surgical care. And limitations on mental health and substance use disorder benefits such as copayments, visit limits, and preauthorization requirements, must generally be comparable with those for medical/surgical benefits.

But merely providing mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits isn’t enough. In order to effectively support employees, companies must promote these benefits too. Too often there is  stigma attached to SUD and mental illness. Employers can play a major role in removing that stigma by creating parity between the general medical benefits they offer and the mental health benefits they offer. Currently, more than 20 million Americans need SUD treatment but don’t get it. And at least twenty percent of workers cite fear of stigma as the reason for not seeking help. 

Lionrock is now offering free COVID-19 Anxiety Support Meetings. These meetings are 60 minute sessions, held via secure video conference, allowing participants to join from the privacy of home. They are accessible for free internationally as well. Capacity is limited to 50 and available on a first come, first served basis. Counselors from Lionrock’s programs will run the sessions and focus them on education and coping skills. Participants need an Internet-connected device with camera and a private place from which to access the group. The COVID-19 Anxiety Support Meetings schedule and video link to access can be found here.

Another way employers can help is by providing information on what treatment might look like. There is a “continuum of care” in drug addiction treatment that spans the most intense levels of care through post-treatment recovery support. Ideally, clients progress from higher levels of care to lower levels, however, the best plans are built to the employees’ individual needs.

Mental health and substance abuse disorder coverage are critical components of a comprehensive health benefits package for every company. Make sure your plans meet the requirements, and meet the needs of your employers and your company.

Want more information? Contact us.