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Mount Sinai South Nassau “Truth in Medicine” Poll: Many Long Islanders Struggle to Find Needed Mental Health Services

Poll shows that even those with insurance coverage have difficulty accessing care

Posted: Oct. 18, 2022
Mount Sinai South Nassau “Truth in Medicine” Poll: Many Long Islanders Struggle to Find Needed Mental Health Services

More than one-third of Long Islanders who sought mental health services found it challenging to find a provider of care, even though nearly all had health insurance to cover most of the cost, according to the latest Mount Sinai South Nassau “Truth in Medicine” Poll, sponsored by Bethpage Credit Union.

According to the poll results, anxiety, depression, social isolation, and fear of contracting COVID-19 are the prevalent issues among those who have accessed professional mental health care services since the pandemic began.

The poll results give emphasis to the cause of National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month, which is being observed nationwide throughout October, to raise awareness of the urgent need for accessible and affordable mental health screenings and services.

In this survey of 600 Long Island residents, 92 percent have active health insurance policies. Of those respondents who have sought care, 36 percent said getting the help they wanted or needed was “challenging,” predominantly due to difficulty scheduling an appointment or lack of coverage by their health insurers.

A significant percentage of poll respondents also feel that institutions like government, municipalities, and schools could be doing more to increase the scope of mental health services in the community. Forty-six percent said that the government does not do enough to help, while just 32 percent say that it does.

“We have a crisis on Long Island when it comes to the lack of mental health services,” says Adhi Sharma, MD, President of Mount Sinai South Nassau. “The poll results strongly indicate that providers are working at or beyond capacity. This calls for an aggressive expansion of mental health screening, prevention, and intervention services to meet the present and future demand for them.”

Since the start of the pandemic, about 84 percent of mental health providers have seen an increase in demand for treatment of anxiety, compared with 74 percent a year ago, while 72 percent of providers have seen an increase in demand for treatment of depression, compared with 60 percent in 2020.

Some hospitals on Long Island have cut or discontinued inpatient behavioral health services in recent years, while other health systems have consolidated them in one location. School officials have reported spikes in demand for mental health services among students, even among elementary and middle-schoolers. Meanwhile, some psychiatrists and psychologists report high demand for services but difficulty finding adequate staff to meet demand.

Some local school leaders have called on government officials to do more to address mental health needs in the schools and local communities.

The poll found that of the 13 percent of respondents who reported that they or another adult in their family sought mental health care since the pandemic began, notable percentages did so for one or more of the following reasons: anxiety (59 percent), depression (50 percent), social isolation (50 percent), and fear of contracting COVID-19 (47 percent).

In the event of a mental health emergency, 64 percent of respondents and 80 percent of respondents with children agreed that they know where to find services, while just 20 percent disagreed, and 17 percent were unsure.

Opinions were highly mixed as to whether or not mental health services on Long Island are adequate. Thirty-six percent said they are satisfactory, 29 percent said they are not, and 35 percent were unsure. Approximately one-half of respondents from households that have used mental health services say they are adequate.

“The stressors of modern life are challenging for most of us and have been made that much harder by the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the hardship and grief that it has caused,” says Aaron E. Glatt, MD, Chair of the Department of Medicine and Chief of Infectious Diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau. “There are actions that we can take to live confidently and safely during the pandemic. If you or someone you love is struggling emotionally and that is interfering with daily life, don’t wait to get help.”

The poll also reinforces previous data that shows that health insurance on its own does not ensure access to quality care of any type. Scheduling capacity, location, and proximity of providers and affordability are also essential to getting quality, comprehensive care.

Eighty-nine percent of all respondents and 97 percent of those who have used mental health services since the pandemic began say that mental health care should be a priority for hospitals, just as cancer and heart health are.

While the rate of children and teenagers receiving therapy for mental health issues related to stress, anxiety, bullying, or substance abuse has been on the rise, it has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past year, 15 percent of respondents with young children and 20 percent of respondents with a child under 12 have sought professional help for a child’s mental health.

Recognizing that many children with psychiatric disorders remain unidentified and untreated, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently issued a recommendation calling for anxiety screening of asymptomatic children ages 8 to 18 who have not been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and screening of children ages 12 to 18 for major depressive disorder.

Of the group of respondents that accessed mental health care for a child, 25 percent say it was in person, 21 percent say they used telemedicine, and 43 percent used both. Among those who used telemedicine, most rate it as only fair. Those who did not use telemedicine express very little interest in doing so in the future.

“The key to knowing when to seek out help is to determine how the symptoms are affecting overall functioning,” says Stanley Reddy, MD, Chair, Psychiatry and Behavioral Health. “Marked decreases in functioning at work, school, and home should be evaluated by a professional promptly before it becomes an emergency.”

This is Mount Sinai South Nassau’s 13th “Truth in Medicine” Poll and second of 2022. The poll seeks to evaluate public knowledge and sentiment toward key public health issues.

Sponsored by Bethpage Credit Union, the poll aims to gather data about attitudes on key public health topics and helps spur education to improve public health. The poll was conducted July 24 to July 28 via both landlines and cell phones with 600 residents on Long Island. Poll findings are subject to a sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.

“ ‘Quality of Life’ encompasses personal, physical, and mental health and wellness, an optimistic outlook, as well as financial stability,” says Linda Armyn, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Bethpage Federal Credit Union. “So, while Bethpage provides our clients with the personalized guidance, information, tools, and insight that will help them achieve their financial goals, the ‘Truth in Medicine’ poll supplies them as well as the general public with insight and information that they can use to achieve optimal health and wellness.”

Mount Sinai South Nassau has a 36-bed inpatient mental health unit and offers behavioral health services at its Mental Health Counseling Center in Baldwin, as well as its Center for Primary and Behavioral Healthcare in Hempstead.

“We are home to one of the state’s most comprehensive inpatient and outpatient behavioral health programs, which is staffed by more than 45 professionals representing the disciplines of psychiatry, psychology, social work, and art therapy,” Dr. Reddy says.

The hospital provides individual, group, and family psychotherapy treatment, including:

  • Adult Psychotherapy and Psychiatry – Medication management and psychotherapy are available on an individual and group basis
  • Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy – Individual, group, and family psychotherapy for children and their families along with child psychiatric services
  • Partial Hospitalization Program – Intensive therapy, support, and medication monitoring for patients who need acute, daily psychiatric treatment in a supportive setting
  • Intensive Outpatient Program – An intensive therapeutic program for patients with psychiatric symptoms who would benefit from group or individual therapy and medication several days per week. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (516) 377-5400

The New York State Office of Mental Health website includes an online (https://omh.ny.gov/) “Find a Mental Health Program” directory that provides complete information on all programs in the state that are operated, licensed, or funded by the office. In addition, directories for county-based mental health care providers can be found on the websites for the Nassau County Department for Human Services (https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/3590/Human-Services under the Office of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Developmental Disabilities Services) and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (https://suffolkcountyny.gov/health see “Directory of Behavioral Health Services under the Mental Hygiene category).

Regardless of the mental health problem, residents across Long Island can call or text the nationwide “988 Lifeline” if you, a friend, or loved one needs emotional support. The Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provide free and confidential support to anyone in emotional distress. Both Nassau and Suffolk Counties also provide mobile crisis teams. Call 516-227-TALK (227-8255) for the Nassau County Mobile Crisis Team, which operates seven days a week, from 10 am to 11 pm. The Suffolk County Mobile Crisis Team phone number is 631-952-3333 for adults 18 and older; 631-370-1701 for those under 18.

The “Truth in Medicine” Poll is a component of Mount Sinai South Nassau’s mission of improving education around critical public health issues. The poll was conducted by a nationally recognized, independent polling firm, LJR Custom Strategies, with offices in Washington and New Orleans. LJR has conducted more than 2,000 studies for a broad spectrum of health care, business, education, cultural, and political clients in nearly every state in the country and around the world.

Mount Sinai South Nassau began conducting the public health poll in January 2017. Previous polls have focused on holiday stress, HPV vaccine, legalization of recreational marijuana, vaccines, supplements, antibiotic use and misuse, and screen time, among others. For more information about the polls, please visit www.southnassau.org/sn/truth-in-medicine.

About Mount Sinai South Nassau
The Long Island flagship hospital of the Mount Sinai Health System, Mount Sinai South Nassau is designated a Magnet® hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for outstanding nursing care. Mount Sinai South Nassau is one of the region’s largest hospitals, with 455 beds, more than 900 physicians and 3,500 employees. Located in Oceanside, New York, the hospital is an acute-care, not-for-profit teaching hospital that provides state-of-the-art care in cardiac, oncologic, orthopedic, bariatric, pain management, mental health, and emergency services and operates the only Trauma Center on the South Shore of Nassau County, along with Long Island’s only free-standing Emergency Department in Long Beach.

In addition to its extensive outpatient specialty centers, Mount Sinai South Nassau provides emergency and elective angioplasty, and offers Novalis Tx™ and Gamma Knife® radiosurgery technologies. Mount Sinai South Nassau operates the only Trauma Center on the South Shore of Nassau County verified by the American College of Surgeons as well as Long Island’s only free-standing, 9-1-1 receiving Emergency Department in Long Beach. Mount Sinai South Nassau also is a designated Stroke Center by the New York State Department of Health and Comprehensive Community Cancer Center by the American College of Surgeons; is an accredited center of the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Association and Quality Improvement Program; and an Infectious Diseases Society of America Antimicrobial Stewardship Center of Excellence. For more information, go to www.mountsinai.org/southnassau.