The Academy advocates for federal and state lawmakers and regulators to improve patient access to behavioral health services, including the diagnosis and treatment of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorder, and other mental health concerns. The AAFP also lobbies for improved payment for these services, investments in training and education for physicians to integrate behavioral health into their practices, and other measures to better facilitate and reimburse
The Academy recognizes that U.S. behavioral health is in crisis. More than 14 million American children and adolescents have a diagnosable mental health disorder, with CDC data indicating that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24. Studies also show that women of color and women living in medically underserved communities experience higher rates of postpartum depression and are at higher risk of maternal mental health conditions.
Nearly 40% of all visits by patients seeking treatment for depression, anxiety, or mental illness are with primary care physicians, making family medicine a crucial front line for safeguarding the behavioral health and wellbeing of Americans. Primary care physicians are likely to be the first point of contact for patients needing mental health care and may be the only source of such care for those of lower socioeconomic status or with co-morbidities. Bolstering primary care resources is essential to improving care access for the 139 million Americans living in mental health professional shortage areas as well as for Black and Hispanic individuals less likely than white individuals to receive care for mental illness.
Particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, AAFP members need robust investment in an array of resources to better integrate behavioral health care into their practices.
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