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Tactics to build a stronger behavioral health system

Unmet behavioral health needs are pushing the health care system to a breaking point. Most mental health and substance use needs are worse than ever—especially for patients who are high-acuity, low-income, and/or people of color. Health care leaders well understand the crisis at hand, and many have been heads down trying to stem the tide.

But to make meaningful progress, industry stakeholders—provider organizations, health plans, life sciences companies, employer organizations, digital health organizations, and policymakers—must collectively shift from short-term, surface level approaches to tactics designed to improve the functioning of the U.S. behavioral health care system on a structural level. This will require health care organizations to collectively address the five primary challenges of the U.S. behavioral health care system: stigmatization, insufficient workforce supply, lack of affordable treatment, limited clinical evidence base, and adverse social determinants of health.

Relative sector impact on addressing the underlying challenges in behavioral health

Each sector of the health care system (in addition to governmental policymakers) has a unique role to play due to the inherent strengths and limitations of their position in the industry. When prioritizing where to start, leaders should dedicate their resources toward the areas where they can have the most relative impact, shown in the table below.

Sector-specific playbooks for building a stronger behavioral health system

Health care stakeholders have tremendous agency to move the behavioral health care system forward. Review the recommended tactics for:

Leaders in the private sector should pay special attention to the playbook of policy recommendations. The passage of key policies on a state and federal level would accelerate progress and take some of the load off individual health care organizations. Governmental affairs teams can use the policy playbook to refine your organization’s advocacy strategy to support your behavioral health goals.

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