Oct 19, 2021

Massachusetts is ranked first among all states in Mental Health America's 2022 State of Mental Health report, but much work remains to reduce the impact of mental health conditions.

Massachusetts has the best “state of mental health” in the nation, according to a new report by Mental Health America released today.

The State of Mental Health in America report ranks each state according to measures of prevalence of mental health conditions and needs, access to mental health services, and barriers to access. The report relies on national survey data collected by key government agencies prior to the pandemic, including research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted during 2018-2019.

This year’s top ranking is an improvement over 2021 rankings, when Massachusetts was ranked 3rd among the states. Like last year, Massachusetts scored high on measures related to access to treatment, largely due to the Commonwealth’s success in increasing the percentage of residents with health insurance coverage.

On other measures cited in the report, much work remains to be done to improve overall mental health and well being. For example:

  • Massachusetts ranks in the bottom half of states for prevalence of mental health (29th) and substance use (39th) conditions among adults. The report relies principally on data from survey years 2018-2019. The percentages cited in the report likely underestimate current prevalence rates, number of people living with these conditions in Massachusetts has increased significantly as a result of the COVID pandemic.
  • Massachusetts ranks 26th for the percentage of adults experiencing serious thoughts of suicide (4.77%).
  • More than half of youth (56.8%) experiencing a major depressive episode in Massachusetts did not receive any treatment.
  • Nearly 22% of Massachusetts adults report that they were not able to receive treatment that they needed. Individuals seeking treatment continue to face significant barriers to services, including a lack of available service options and insurance restrictions.
  • Although Massachusetts ranks 1st in the nation in the number of mental health professionals per capita, many residents cannot access care because many providers do not accept MassHealth or any other type of insurance. A 2018 survey by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts and the Urban Institute found that 35.7% of adults who sought behavioral health treatment were told by a provider that they did not accept their type of insurance, and nearly 11% reported being told the provider was not accepting any insurance at all.
“Efforts to implement a new, nationwide 988 number to replace the Suicide Prevention Hotline provide an opportunity to engage people in crisis with effective, community-based services.”

Behavioral health reforms currently underway may help to reduce some barriers to treatment, including early intervention services that can reduce the impact of mental health conditions. These reforms, scheduled for implementation beginning next year, include establishing Community Behavioral Health Centers with 24/7 access and a new “front door” to help individuals navigate service systems.

In addition, parity legislation currently under consideration by the state Legislature would ensure that behavioral health services are covered as comprehensively as physical health services under insurance plans.

And finally, proposed legislation to develop more comprehensive crisis services is critical to divert individuals with mental health conditions from hospitals, jails, and prison. Efforts to implement a new, nationwide "988" number to replace the Suicide Prevention Hotline provide an opportunity to engage people in crisis with effective, community-based services and supports.

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