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Costs of failing to treat mental health issues can be high

Mental health care is an important issue for all of us individually and as a society. Failing to provide financial and heath care support to those with mental illnesses certainly comes with a cost. Oftentimes these costs include involvement with police and the criminal justice system, or emergency hospitalizations which can cost an arm and a leg, so to speak. All of this can cost a lot of money.

Compare to that the costs of being proactive about mental health. This includes costs like providing better access to mental health care, disability benefits, housing, and so on. While money is not the only aspect of the discussion, it is an important one. What do the numbers say? Interestingly, they seem to say that the costs of failing to treat mental health care can quickly add up and exceed the costs of taking a more preventative approach. 

For example, as a recent USA article notes, the costs of providing a mentally ill person with a year’s worth of treatment, disability benefits, housing and other services is often not drastically more—if at all—than the costs of a single incarceration or emergency hospital stay. This is telling, and should influence how we and our lawmakers look at the issue of mental health care.

Adults with serious mental illnesses should not hesitate to apply for Social Security disability benefits if they find they are in financial need. In order to qualify, one would have to meet the requirements set forth for an entry in the Social Security’s official listing of impairments, or otherwise qualify for a medical vocational allowance. In either case, disability benefits can be a valuable source of support for those with a qualifying mental impairment. 

Source: USA Today, “Comparing alternatives for those with mental illness,” Liz Szalbo, May 12, 2014. 

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