Affording Healthcare: A Personal and Political Issue
You’re struggling financially. It might be because you lost your job, you left a relationship that wasn’t working, you’re struggling with addiction, or simply because you’re a young person living on your own for the first time. Whatever your circumstances, you’re having a difficult time making ends meet. You have cut frivolous expenses from your budget, but you’re still struggling to pay for groceries, let alone rent. You’ve stopped spending time with friends and family, because you can’t afford the gas. As a result, you’re feeling frustrated, lonely, isolated, and maybe even ashamed.
It probably won’t come as a shock to anyone that faced with financial issues like these, people are much more prone to depression (Patel, 2018). In fact, 6 of the 10 poorest regions of the United States (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia) experience some of the highest rates of depression in this country (Friends Committee on National Legislation, 2022) (Feder, 2020). It’s not just the United States either. Income inequality has been rising steadily over the last thirty years worldwide, with many countries seeing an increase in individuals experiencing symptoms of depression (Patel, 2018).
To make matters worse, one-third of US citizens say they cannot afford therapy (Han, 2022). This is to say nothing of the additional costs – such as transportation and childcare – that often accompany therapy sessions (Han, 2022). Is it any wonder, then, that 90% of US adults are convinced that the nation is experiencing a mental health crisis (McPhillips, 2022)? Some are not convinced that the crisis the nation is facing is a mental health one. Dr. Carr (2022), an assistant professor from UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics, for example, argues that what we’re facing is a political crisis and that people’s mental health is merely a symptom of a greater disease. She states, “If someone is driving through a crowd, running people over, the smart move is not to declare an epidemic of people suffering from Got Run Over by a Car Syndrome and go searching for the underlying biological mechanism that must be causing it. You have to treat the very real suffering that is happening in the bodies of the people affected but the key point is this: You’re going to have to stop the guy running over people with the car.” While this is a fair analogy, one thing it doesn’t acknowledge is that many of those who need treatment right now can’t get it. If someone doesn’t stop to address that issue, the people injured are the ones who are going to suffer and die needlessly while we’re chasing the guy in the car. Given that, it seems the United States is facing two issues right now: income inequality and healthcare access. We need to address both.
For those who are struggling with mental health, access to healthcare is the most immediate concern. If you or someone you know living in California is struggling financially and needs to see a therapist, a good place to start is your County Mental Health Department (DCHS, 2022). They’ll be able to help connect you with resources that can help you pay for services so that you can get the mental health treatment you need. If you are already in treatment, have a conversation with your therapist about what your payment options are. They may be willing to work with your budget, adjust your session schedule, connect you with services that can help cover costs, provide pro-bono sessions, and/or refer you to an agency who is able to provide free or low-cost services. There are also crisis resources, such as the ones available through Riverside County’s Department of Behavioral Health, which are available to everyone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, many of which are free. At Life Source, we offer several affordable options for people who are struggling. We have trainees who charge a nominal fee for services and even provide free sessions to individuals and families enrolled in the Riverside Police Department’s Opportunities with Education program and Riverside Community College’s Gateway program. For individuals who are needing to complete court-ordered services or are looking for a more experienced mental health professional, we have our associates who can work with you or someone you love. For individuals and families who have been victims of crime and can’t afford mental health services, we accept CalVCB.
As for income inequality, it wasn’t that long ago when people believed union influence was on the decline and would never recover (Domhoff, 2013), a $15 minimum wage was a dangerous fantasy (White, 2015), and universal healthcare was little more than a pipe dream (USA Today Editorial Board, 2019). However, recent years have shown us that these dire predictions and proclamations were perhaps a bit hasty and shortsighted. In 2022, the United States saw a massive increase in union petitions, with 68% of adults in the United States saying they approve of labor unions, the highest rate since 71% in 1965. Three states – California, Massachusetts, and Washington – have $15 minimum wages and nearly a dozen more are working to increase their minimum to $15 over the next few years (Janisch, 2022). Meanwhile, California is well on its way to becoming the first state in the United States to offer single payer healthcare to all its citizens (Carter, 2022). These examples stand as proof that we can come together and address the economic issues that are necessary to address the mental health crisis and political crisis the United States appears to be facing.
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