To The Editor:
The suggestions raised in National Underwriter’s editorial, “This Bill Misses the Point,” (Aug. 27) overlook methods of providing mental health treatment while reducing overall medical care costs.
From a societal standpoint, the issues would appear to be the stigma attached to seeking mental health treatment and the tremendous productivity costs attendant to untreated mental health problems.
While Fortune 100 companies pay lip service to the phrase “employees are our most important asset,” the HR department has not traditionally been viewed as an “asset management” function, but rather as a cost center.
Depression is the number one cause of employee disability and households with a depressed member use general medical services at 200% the rate of households without a depressed individual.
If a company offers mental health benefits to its employees, but employees resist using it (no one wants “depression” in their employee jacket), is it really a benefit?
Here is the choice: (1) If companies want to know who is using mental health services, the system fails (employees will not seek treatment until their situation becomes unbearable); or (2) If the goal is to assist employees with problems, anonymity is critical.
If an employee believes he needs to speak with a therapist, can such a call be unnecessary? Not from the employee’s viewpoint. Moreover, an employee “co-pay” (using a credit card) should assuage fears of employee abuse of the system.
Additionally, limits can be placed on aggregate employee minutes or on a per employee basis. As in general medicine, early diagnosis leads to better and more cost-effective outcomes. An employee “funk” can be addressed before it devolves into full-blown depression, if the issue is raised.
My Therapy Network LLC has created a method of circumventing the stigma attached to mental health treatment. Employees can contact a licensed therapist and speak with the therapist on the telephone at the moment of need.
Rather than knowing which particular employee has used the service, the aggregate monthly cost and effectiveness of this program can be monitored and measured against productivity goals. An anonymous “outcome survey” after a trial period can be generated to gather employee input as to its value.
While telephone counseling may not be suitable for every employee, it does provide a channel for triage during a time of perceived need (without being identified).