Article and Information of Interest to NYS Council Members

October 19, 2022

State of Politics:  Overdose deaths continue to rise in New York State, 10/18


Newsday, 10/19

Long Islanders find it hard to access mental health providers, survey finds

October 18, 2022 6:00 am

Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside conducted a survey of Long Islanders that found many found it challenging to access mental health providers. Credit: Chris Ware

Finding a mental health provider on Long Island is difficult, even for people with insurance, according to a new poll.

The findings come as experts have said the number of people — especially children and teens — in need of mental health services has grown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 36% of Long Islanders said they or their adult family member who sought mental health services said they faced challenges accessing care, such as an inability to get an appointment. Almost half believed schools, government and municipalities should do more to support the community’s mental health needs, according to the latest “Truth in Medicine” poll released by Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside.

And 33% of respondents said they were more likely to seek help for a mental health concern as a result of the pandemic. Anxiety, depression, social isolation and fear of contracting COVID-19 were the top mental health challenges among those who have sought out professional help.

  • About 36% of Long Islanders who sought mental health services said they faced challenges accessing care, according to a poll of 600 Long Islanders.
  • 33% of respondents said they were more likely to seek help for a mental health concern as a result of the pandemic.
  • Nationwide this summer, 32.3% of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, nearly triple the rate in 2019.

The difficulty accessing providers came despite 92% of respondents saying they had health insurance.

“We kind of intuitively knew, but we never had hard data, that coverage doesn’t equal care,” said Dr. Adhi Sharma, president of the hospital.

The poll showed 41% of respondents said mental health care they or an adult family member sought was not covered by insurance.

Sharma said because reimbursement rates tend to be low, many mental health professionals have found it makes more financial sense to operate outside of the insurance networks. 

Another problem is the insufficient number of mental health providers, Sharma said.

“We’re constantly recruiting because it’s very hard to find psychiatrists, mental health specialists, social workers,” he said. “We don’t have enough people entering this space.”

Newsday reported last month that mental health professionals have trouble keeping up with the demand for services. Despite adding to their patient workloads, many still have long waiting lists.

Nationwide this summer, 32.3% of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, nearly triple the rate in 2019 though down from a peak of 42% in November of 2020, according to surveys from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau.

The Mount Sinai South Nassau poll of 600 Long Island residents was conducted by phone between July 24 to July 28.

The loss of loved ones during the pandemic’s early days, as well as the impact of restrictions such as social distancing and remote education, has fueled a mental health crisis, said Jeff McQueen, executive director of the nonprofit Mental Health Association of Nassau County.

“When you look at how many people in New York were dying daily … those numbers were equal to that of a combat zone. We were losing 700 people a day,” he said.

Additionally, family members were restricted in how they visited those who were sick and dying. “I just feel that alone created this great deal of trauma in our community.”

According to the poll, 13% of respondents said they or another adult in their immediate family sought mental health care since the pandemic began and 15% of people with children under the age of 18 sought help for at least one of their children over the last year.

When asked if mental health services on Long Island are adequate, 36% of respondents said they are satisfactory, 29% said they are not while 35% said they were unsure.

When parents of children under the age of 18 were asked to rate their child’s mental health telemedicine experience, 61% chose a rating of “only fair” with another 28% saying they were “poor.”

Sharma said better coordination among existing mental health services throughout a community could be key to improving the situation.

And McQueen said some of the pressure on the mental health system can be eased by using peer-run programs and groups to help people who have received clinical care but can benefit from more support. 

“That gives you the ability to share your hope with others,” he said. “There’s nothing more meaningful than knowing who you are has been helpful to somebody else.”

Crain’s Health Pulse, 10/19

New York state has reached its lowest rank—21st nationally—when it comes to women’s and children’s health outcomes, according to a new report from the United Health Foundation. This was the state’s lowest ranking since 2016, when the foundation began conducting America’s Health Rankings annual surveys for women’s and children’s health, when it ranked 20th.

The report analyzed New York’s publicly available data for more than 100 metrics in 2020 and 2021, including social and economic factors, such as food insecurity and residential segregation, physical environment factors such as housing problems and climate changes, and clinical care outcomes, such as maternal mortality, prenatal care and access to care.

All of these metrics affect New Yorkers’ overall health, said Dr. Rhonda Randall, United Healthcare’s chief medical officer.

This marks the first time New York didn’t make the top 20 in the nation. From 2016 to 2018, New York came in 19th, and in 2019 the state took the No. 13 position. The United Health Foundation did not collect state-specific data during the pandemic because states experienced outbreaks at different times that affected behaviors and how people received care.

The most notable factor contributing to New York’s ranking dip, Randall said, could be the state’s 30% increase in mortality rates for women who are of childbearing age from 2019 to 2020. The 2021 report shows about 91 deaths per 100,000 women in New York annually.

Deaths caused by drugs are becoming a larger factor in mortality rates among women, Randall said. They have increased from about eight deaths per 100,000 women in 2016 to about 17 per 100,000 women in 2020 and 2021, according to United Health Foundation’s figures.

There are about 18 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in New York. While this maternal mortality rate is better than that of much of the country, with the state ranking seventh for the metric, there is a widening gap in rates among women of different races that is concerning, Randall said.

According to the state Department of Health, whose latest maternal mortality reports include data from 2018, the three-year rolling average of maternal mortality rates was highest among Black New Yorkers. Black New Yorkers experienced just over 53 deaths per 100,000 women; just under 13 white New York mothers per 100,000 died.

Combating maternal mortality has been a recent focus of several initiatives as the city’s policymakers reckon with different outcomes for mothers of different races. City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams has reported that New York is responsible for about 30 of the approximately 700 pregnancy-related deaths that occur in America each year, and that Black women are eight to 12 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.

In August the City Council passed a package of legislation focused on improving outcomes for women’s health—including Introduction 409, sponsored by City Council member Farah Louis, that would require the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to post an annual maternal mortality and morbidity report on its website.

Introduction 472 in the package requires the department to establish a program to train doulas in birth equity, trauma-informed care and the like, and provide doula services to underserved communities for free.

Among the city’s other initiatives to decrease maternal mortality and morbidity include Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso’s dedicating all of his $45 million fiscal 2023 budget to improving care at public hospitals, including the New York City Health + Hospitals/ Coney Island and Woodhull sites.

New York’s housing crisis is negatively affecting its rank. The state’s high cost of infant care (it ranks 46th), high rate of residential segregation (it ranks 47th) and high rate of people experiencing homelessness—as well as a high rate of women experiencing mental distress—are other areas of concern identified in the report. These factors can all decrease access to health care.

Despite these challenges, New York has succeeded in some arenas. The rate of teenage women giving birth in New York has dropped by 44% to 10 births among 1,000 women in 2020; HPV vaccination has increased by almost 20% from 2019 to 2020; and nearly 70% of young people ages 13-17 are vaccinated against the virus.

The United Health Foundation has conducted health outcomes surveys for decades, with the women’s and children’s health surveys representing the largest data pools. The top three states in the report were Minnesota, Massachusetts and Vermont. —Jacqueline Neber