43% of Patients with SUD, Mental Health Conditions Do Not Get Care

Cost and difficulty finding a provider that matches patient preferences are the top barriers individuals with substance use disorder face when trying to access treatment.

Patients in the U.S. continue to face difficulties accessing mental health services and substance use disorder treatment, according to research from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. In fact, roughly 43% of patients in need of substance use disorder treatment did not receive care. Additionally 2 in 5 Americans needing mental health services did not receive care. In contrast 21% of patients needing primary care did not receive it.

“We are in a mental health and substance use crisis. Failing to eliminate barriers to access will only worsen this new public health emergency,” Ingoglia said. “In conducting this survey, we at the National Council do not seek to simply call attention to a national crisis in health care. It is our goal to begin a national discussion that will pave the way to lasting solutions.”


Cost is a major barrier for patients seeking mental health care and SUD treatment. Thirty-seven percent of individuals who needed mental healthcare but did not get services, reported cost as a barrier. Meanwhile 31% of patients who reported a SUD that did not receive treatment cited cost as a barrier to care.

Survey takers reported a discrepancy between physical and mental healthcare in the U.S. The bulk of Americans (67%) said they believed it was harder to find a mental health provider than a physical health provider. And 7 in 10 people in the U.S. report that they would be more likely to get mental health or SUD care through their primary provider.

“Recruiting more mental health and substance use professionals must be a top priority – and that workforce must reflect the rich diversity of our nation,” Ingoglia said in a statement. “We won’t be able to increase access to care or meet the historic demand for mental health and substance use care with an inadequate number of people employed to provide treatment. Improving Medicare, Medicaid and non-Medicaid-funded program reimbursement rates will allow employers to boost salaries and other financial incentives that will help with recruitment and retention.”


The Biden Administration has prioritized expanding behavioral health access. For example, the White House announced it would invest $825 million into community centers nationwide in order to expand behavioral health services.

Additionally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid recently released Behavioral Health Strategy puts an emphasis on equity and access to care.

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