SAMHSA’s new report tracks the behavioral health of America

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SAMHSA on January 26, 2015

SAMHSA’s new report, the “National Behavioral Health Barometer” (Barometer), provides data about key aspects of behavioral healthcare issues affecting American communities including rates of serious mental illness, suicidal thoughts, substance use, underage drinking, and the percentages of those who seek treatment for these disorders. The Barometer shows this data at the national level, and for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The Barometer indicates that the behavioral health of our nation is improving in some areas, particularly among adolescents. For example, past month use of both illicit drugs and cigarettes has fallen for youth ages 12-17 from 2009 to 2013 (from 10.1 percent to 8.8 percent for illicit drugs and 9.0 percent to 5.6 percent for cigarettes). Past month binge drinking among children ages 12-17 has also fallen from 2009 to 2013 (from 8.9 percent to 6.2 percent).

The Barometer also shows more people are getting the help they need in some crucial areas. The number of people receiving treatment for a substance use problem has increased six percent from 2009 to 2013. It also shows that the level of adults experiencing serious mental illness who received treatment rose from 62.9 percent in 2012 to 68.5 percent in 2013.

The data in the Barometer is drawn from various federal surveys and provides both a snapshot of the current status of behavioral health nationally and by state, and trend data on some of these key behavioral health issues over time. The findings will be enormously helpful to decision makers at all levels who are seeking to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

“The Barometer provides new insight into what is happening on the ground in states across the country,” said SAMHSA’s Administrator, Pamela S. Hyde. “It provides vital information on the progress being made in each state as well as the challenges before them.  States and local communities use this data to determine the most effective ways of addressing their behavioral healthcare needs.”

The Barometer also provides analyses by gender, age group and race/ethnicity, where possible, to further help public health authorities more effectively identify and address behavioral health issues occurring within their communities, and to serve as a basis for tracking and addressing behavioral health disparities.

For the first time, the Barometer provides analyses broken down by poverty level (above or below) and health insurance status. This data can help provide researchers, policy makers, public health authorities and others a better understanding of how income and insurance coverage affect access and utilization of behavioral healthcare services.