From Employee Benefit Advisor
By Cort Olsen
One in five Americans suffer from mental illness each year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Of those, 60% diagnosed with stress, anxiety and depression do not seek treatment, according to the 2016 state of mental health in America report compiled by Mental Health America.
Because employees are not seeking treatment for these conditions, employers are losing an estimated $225.8 billion each year due to stress, anxiety, depression and substance abuse contributing to high turnover, burnout, exhaustion and decreased motivation.
Healthcare workers and those in the healthcare delivery profession have seen a lot of mental health claims associated with stress, depression and anxiety, says Dr. Dawn Bazarko, founder and senior vice president of Moment Health, a new UnitedHealth Group business focused on bringing mindfulness programs to workplaces.
“The data supports that [mental health claims] are getting worse and it is becoming somewhat of an epidemic,” Bazarko says. “I think of stress as a public health issue.”
Bazarko adds that she became personally invested in the mental health field 14 years ago while she battled with anxiety and panic attacks while she attempted to finish graduate school and raise two children at the same time.
“I launched this business to provide the same services to my colleagues at UnitedHealth Group, to teach them techniques to become more aware of what was happening to themselves and learning new skills to deal with reactivity, build attention regulation and showing up as your best self,” Bazarko says.
Dr. Colleen Fairbanks, a psychologist in Lombard, Ill., echoes Bazarko’s concerns regarding anxiety and depression spreading through workplaces, saying mental wellness within the workplace can be divided up into three categories: enhancing mental wellness programs by what is offered, improving the culture of the workplace and improving the environment of the workplace.
“Over the past year or two, there has been an increase in mental wellness offering in the workplace,” Fairbanks says. “Many people may not take advantage of these programs because of the way they are marketed.”
Fairbanks adds that because wellness advisers are marketing programs to reduce anxiety or depression, employees are not enrolling because they don’t think they suffer from those conditions.
“If you provide offerings for the flip side of depression such as, ‘how to thrive in your everyday life,’ the end result is still getting at the same thing, but people are more likely to attend those programs or be more interested and open to consideration,” Fairbanks says.
Rather than encouraging employees to join a program, one service provider is taking the mental health diagnosis straight to the workplace by providing onsite medical services.
To help reduce the large amounts of profit employers are losing each year and improve mental wellbeing in the workplace, Marathon Health is partnering with benefit brokers and wellness advisers to introduce its behavioral health servicing program to their onsite clinic services.
“We recognize that mental health is a key contributor to overall wellbeing,” says Jerry Ford, CEO of Marathon Health. “Adding behavioral health to our suite of services was a natural progression in our commitment to treating the whole patient. We’re proud to offer this service and help patients on their journey to better health and wellbeing.”
David Demers, vice president of analytics and business intelligence at Marathon Health, says with the addition of the behavioral health service to Marathon’s onsite clinic benefit, employers have the potential to gain a 2:1 ROI for redirected care, coordination with onsite providers and medication management.
“We used $125 for the fair market value for an individual counseling session,” Demers says. “This is conservative, since Health Care Blue Book lists the fair market value for a 30 minute counseling session at $125 and the fair market value for a 45 minute counseling session at $167.”
Depending on the location of the business, Demers adds if a mental health counselor works in one of Marathon’s health centers, they are expected to see seven patients a day. Thus, a full time counselor working 250 clinic days a year would see 1,750 visits per year at $125 a session, totaling $218,750 of redirected care per year.
“The all-in cost of an employer having a licensed mental health counselor is approximately $95,400,” Demers says. “Thus, the savings in terms of redirected care is $218,750 divided by $95,400 equals 2.2 to one return on investment.”
Bazarko says she sees a large movement happening within the mental wellness spaces and says those who work within the wellness and wellbeing space have a bright future to look forward to.
“I’ve spent my entire career in this space and I think the future looks really bright for those of us who are called to this work and also want to reduce suffering — and there is a lot of it out there — and address a large societal problem,” Bazarko says.