As year-end lists go, Mental Health America’s “Parity or Disparity: The State of Mental Health in America 2015,” is unlikely to get as many clicks as Google’s “Year in Search 2014.” And it is unlikely to incite the kind of rage that the New York Times’ “100 Notable Books” list does. But for anyone who has any regular interaction with public mental health systems, it makes for riveting reading.
Mental Health America is a 105-year-old community-based network that promotes prevention, early identification, intervention for those at risk and treatment of mental illness. It based its rankings primarily on federal data. Full disclosure: The report was funded in part by Eli Lilly and Co., Genentech, Otsuka America Pharmaceutical Inc., Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc., Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A. Inc. and Lundbeck U.S.
The report is not intended to be a year-end list, but it happened to come out a few weeks ago, just as our annual bout of year-end list mania was setting in. I also found that its ranking of states on need vs. access to mental health services lent itself to the genre, so here are a few examples of how the DMV stacked up against other states:
Both Maryland and Virginia were in the top 10 of states with the greatest rates of need for services, coming in at No. 3 and No. 9, respectively. The others included New Jersey, Florida, Alabama and North Carolina. The District was No. 50, with the caveat being that lumping in D.C., a 100 percent urban area with 600,000 people, in a comparison of states is problematic, so don’t forget to pass the salt on that one.
According to the report, Virginia has just over 1 million adults with mental illness, Maryland has about 792,000 total, and the District has about 99,000 adults.
Maryland was also ranked 4th for having the most adults with serious thoughts of suicide. Virginia was ranked 13th and the District was 42nd.
Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) and others with first-hand experience of the failings of Virginia’s mental health system may find this surprising, but the Old Dominion was among the top five for states having the highest rates of adults with any mental illness who received treatment. (The others were Vermont, Massachusetts, Nebraska and Maine.) Maryland was 28th and the District was 38th. To put that ranking in context, however, it should also be noted that Virginia was 16th on the list of places where state hospitals had the highest 180-day readmission rates. D.C. was 27th and Maryland was 40th.
The last list I will point out is for “Students identified with serious emotional disturbance for IEP” (Individualized Education Program). The states with the highest rates of that group were Vermont, the District, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Wisconsin. Maryland is 17th and Virginia is 23rd. It was hard not to notice that blue states are clustered at the top end. I leave it to the rest of you to theorize why that is.