Spending on mental health and substance-abuse treatment is projected to double over a 10-year period ending in 2014, reaching $239 billion from $121 billion spent in 2003, according to new government data released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and reported in the journal Health Affairs, which comes five days after Congress passed legislation to increase funding for mental healthcare and substance-abuse treatment. In that time, however, federal spending on such programs is expected to lag behind overall healthcare spending, largely because of the ways and means that mental health treatments are delivered, despite the fact that some in the industry think that the new legislation will be good for such treatment.
Katharine Levit, a senior research leader at the healthcare business of Thomson Reuters in Washington and the lead researcher for the data, said that behavioral health services are often delivered in a much more low-tech way than, say, hospital services.
Growth in spending for behavioral health has lagged behind overall health spending growth largely because behavioral health spending is not driven by expensive new technologies to nearly the same extent as other health spending, she said in a written statement.
The one exception, Levit said, is in the use of prescription drugs, where spending increases are the greatest and expected to outpace overall health spending growth, she said.
The majority of spending on mental health and substance-abuse treatment goes toward those with mental illnesses, the report states. In 2014, spending on treatment is expected to be $239 billion, a growth rate of 6.6% from 2003or roughly on par with other periods. Fifty-eight percent of that spending is expected to come from public sources, primarily Medicaid.
Spending on substance-abuse treatment is expected to total $35 billion in 2014, though researchers warn that the number is likely understated because it is often a secondary condition. -- by Matthew DoBias
What do you think? Post a comment on this article and share your opinion with other readers. Submit your comments to Modern Healthcare Online at [email protected]. Please be sure to include your hometown and state, along with your organization and title.