Behavioral health services significantly lowers health care costs

New analysis finds that even the lowest level of behavioral health treatment can make a big impact on total health care spend.

In 2020, there were an estimated 52.9 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with a mental illness. This number represented 21.0% of all U.S. adults and revealed an opportunity for individuals to improve their mental health and well-being. With the irreversibly accelerating need for mental health care, comes a decrease in the stigma associated with getting care. As a result, more people now are seeking the help and treatment they need.

Connection Between Mental and Physical Health

We know obtaining care is likely to improve mental health and there is growing recognition it will also improve physical health, but can we prove that the impact of behavioral health care on physical health is strong enough to reduce total medical costs? The answer is “yes.”

This first-of-its-kind analysis by Evernorth of approximately 200,000 customers found that among people newly diagnosed with a behavioral health condition, such as anxiety, depression, or substance use disorder, receiving behavioral outpatient care is associated with a reduction in costs up to $2,565 per person over 15 months and up to $3,321 per person over 27 months following a diagnosis.

The full report — Impact of Behavioral Health Treatment on Total Cost of Care — can be found here.

Providing Access to Behavioral Care

The report findings are groundbreaking, and demonstrate there is much work to be done to help people throughout a lifelong mental health journey. Unfortunately, most people do not get the mental health treatment they need until they’re experiencing a crisis. Providing access to behavioral outpatient care is a vital resource that allows individuals to explore symptoms that could lead to mental health distress, enact new thought patterns, and learn adaptive coping skills over time.

We are acting on these findings, in partnership with plan sponsors, by engaging the members they serve and guiding them to the behavioral health care that best meets their needs – whether that is in-person, virtual, or digital. There is a tremendous opportunity to connect more individuals to mental health support earlier and more often which, in turn, will lead to better overall health and well-being and lower total medical spend.

Originally published on 11/16/21 and updated on 6/12/23.

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Evernorth Behavioral Health
Evernorth Behavioral Health takes a data-informed approach and provides personalized care across the entire continuum for the populations we serve. Our solutions help support mental health and emotional well-being by using identification models to proactively engage members, help them navigate to the right level of care, quickly — and provide quality outcomes that drive cost savings.